Feb 26, 2021

Americans United for Separation of Church and State President and CEO Rachel Laser issued the following statement in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s order today in Gateway City Church v. Newsom, a case involving houses of worship challenging a Santa Clara County, Calif., public health order designed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by limiting large gatherings:

“It is alarming that this Supreme Court continues to ignore scientists and public health experts – not to mention our Constitution – in order to grant religious privilege to a select few at the expense of the health and safety of everyone else. Religious freedom is meant to be a shield that protects all of us, not a sword used to harm others. 

“Public health orders that restrict large gatherings, secular and religious alike, are not an attack on religious freedom. They are temporary, common-sense measures intended to limit the spread of a deadly disease until it is again safe for people to gather together in large, indoor groups.

“We sympathize with the faith communities yearning to come together to worship – it’s been a challenging year. The more we heed the advice of public health experts now, the sooner the virus will be under control and we will all be able to resume our traditions – both religious and secular.”

Americans United has filed 45 amicus briefs in courts across the country, including six briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court, in cases involving requests for religious exemptions from COVID-19 public health orders. Until a Nov. 25 Supreme Court ruling in a New York case, the vast majority of the decisions in these cases had rejected these requests.

Americans United is a religious freedom advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, AU educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom. Learn more at www.au.org.