March 2021 Church & State Magazine | AU Bulletin

The U.S. Supreme Court Feb. 5 struck down a California ban on indoor religious worship during the coronavirus pandemic, although it allowed state officials to limit the size of such gatherings.

Americans United criticized the ruling for extending special preferences to religious organizations.

“Once again the Supreme Court has misconstrued religious freedom to mean religious privilege and placed the health of the American people in jeopardy with an order that allows houses of worship to evade sensible public safety regulations curbing large gatherings during a pandemic,” said Rachel Laser, president and CEO if Americans United.

The court’s vote was 6-3. In a dissent, Justice Elena Kagan was highly critical of the decision, writing, “Justices of this court are not scientists. Nor do we know much about public health policy. Yet today the court displaces the judgments of experts about how to respond to a raging pandemic.”

Americans United filed amicus briefs with the Supreme Court in defense of the public-health restrictions at issue in the two California cases, South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom and Harvest Rock Church v. Newsom.