Five out of nine judges supported the Californian authorities in the lawsuit filed by the South Bay United Pentecostal Church in Chula Vista, which held that Governor Gavin Newsom's orders to stay home during the pandemic had ignored religious liberties.
Chief Justice Johns Roberts explained that California's epidemiological restrictions also apply to non-religious groups, so those do not pose a threat to freedom of worship.
"Similar or more severe restrictions apply to comparable secular gatherings, including lectures, concerts, movie showings, spectator sports, and theatrical performances, where large groups of people gather in close proximity for extended periods of time," Roberts said.
Furthermore, those health-related restrictions do not violate the First Amendment, which stipulates that the government cannot legislate to regulate the establishment of a religion or to prohibit the free religious exercise.
Let’s not forget our Tribal Nations. Navajo Nation, as of May 29, has 5,044 COVID-19 cases and 167 deaths. I don’t see us in the data. https://t.co/Y4KtUTL0AV
Despite the Supreme Court's ruling, four conservative judges issued dissenting opinions, one of whom was Brett Kavanaugh, who noted that the "25 percent occupancy limit in religious worship services indisputably discriminates against religion."
On May 25, Governor Newsom ordered California churches to operate at only 25 percent of capacity during de-escalation.
As of Saturday morning, the U.S. had reported 1,797,025 COVID-19 cases and 104,632 deaths. In California, which is the fourth state in the nation with the highest number of detected infections, 106,910 COVID-19 cases, and 4,088 deaths were registered.