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Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Coronavirus Limits on Church Services

California restricting churches to 25% capacity or less than 100 worshipers “appear[s] consistent” with First Amendment, wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in 5–4 decision.
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Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Coronavirus Limits on Church Services
Image: Leah Millis / Pool via AP
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts

A divided US Supreme Court on Friday rejected an emergency appeal by a California church that challenged state limits on attendance at worship services that have been imposed to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.

Over the dissent of the four more conservative justices, Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s four liberals in turning away a request from the South Bay United Pentecostal Church in Chula Vista, California, in the San Diego area.

The church argued that limits on how many people can attend its services violate constitutional guarantees of religious freedom and had been seeking an order in time for services on Sunday. The church said it has crowds of 200 to 300 people for its services.

Roberts wrote in a brief opinion that the restrictions allowing churches to reopen at 25 percent of their capacity, with no more than 100 worshipers at a time, “appear consistent" with the First Amendment. Roberts said similar or more severe limits apply to concerts, ...

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