✪ The Supreme Court issued an absolutely heartbreaking decision this week against religious freedom and the First Amendment. And the worst part of it was that perennial disappointment, and supposed conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, sided with the Democrats. The court ruled in favor of the state of Nevada and its ban on gatherings of more than 50 people at churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious establishments.
In the meantime, casinos and other entertainment venues do not face such a harsh and punishing ban from the state. The 5 – 4 decision joined Roberts and the liberal wing of the court keeps in place a limit of 50 worshippers in such houses of worship during the coronavirus pandemic.
The order was not signed but we know who voted in favor of it because, Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch did sign their dissent “Temporarily narrowing restrictions on the size of mass gatherings, including for religious services, protects the health and well-being of Nevada citizens during a global pandemic,” the state of Nevada said in its argument to the court.
That order had to be signed by Chief Justice Roberts and liberal justices Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, because we know the four justices who signed the dissent. The fact that the dissenting justices took the step of signing their opinion shows how furious they must have been at this decision.
Justice Samuel Alito, along with Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh argued that the “Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion. ” “It says nothing about the freedom to play craps or black-jack, to feed tokens into a slot machine, or to engage in any other game of chance,” the Justice said.
“A public health emergency does not give Governors and other public officials carte blanche to disregard the Constitution for as long as the medical problem persists,” he said. But it was Justice Gorsuch, who was nominated to the court by President Donald Trump, who wrote the scathing dissent.
“This is a simple case. Under the Governor’s edict, a 10- screen ‘multiplex’ may host 500 moviegoers at any time,” he said.
“A casino, too, may cater to hundreds at once, with perhaps six people huddled at each craps table here and a similar number gathered around every roulette wheel there. Large numbers and close quarters are fine in such places. But churches, synagogues, and mosques are banned from admitting more than 50 worshippers—no matter how large the building, how distant the individuals, how many wear face masks, no matter the precautions at all.
“In Nevada, it seems, it is better to be in entertainment than religion. Maybe that is nothing new. But the First Amendment prohibits such obvious discrimination against the exercise of religion. The world we inhabit today, with a pandemic upon us, poses unusual challenges. But there is no world in which the Constitution permits Nevada to favor Caesars Palace over Calvary Chapel,” he said.✪