Text of First Amendment quoted in a textbook. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

A majority of the Justices actually read the Constitution and realized the First Amendment was still there, including something about free expression of religion.

After re-reading those odd comments, they realized it was an attack on the U.S. Constitution when the New York governor picked a spot on the map and said within that area indoor worship services must be limited to 10 people. Thus they issued an injunction against the state pending a full trial on the merits of the case.

The limit of 10 is a particular burden for the Orthodox Jewish congregations who filed the litigation. For a routine worship service, Orthodox Jews require 10 adult males be present. See Minyan explanation at Wikipedia.

This means that under the arbitrary rules issued by the state, an orthodox congregation could meet but no women, no children, and no men beyond the quorum of 10 could participate in the worship.

In essence, Orthodox Jewish congregations may not worship. Sure does seem like that would be an infringement on free expression.

Oh, liquor stores, bicycle shops, garages, and acupuncturists are exempt from the 10 person limit.

Please pardon the click-bait title for the post and the sarcasm in the opening paragraphs.  The degree to which so many politicians ignore the Constitution warrants all the finger-pointing, ridicule, and out-loud laughter we can muster.

Enough of the laughing. Time for more serious comments.

For more details check out the Wall Street Journal news report on 11/26/20: Supreme Court Blocks Covid-19 Restrictions on Religious Services in New York.

The preliminary injunction was issued regarding litigation raised by a local Roman Catholic Diocese and an Orthodox Jewish association. The litigation claims that the restriction of 10 worshipers in a red zone and 25 in an orange zone is a violation of the free exercise clause of the First Amendment. The justices ruled the plaintiffs were likely to prevail at trial, therefore they issued an injunction.

The justices were concerned that many businesses, including acupuncture facilities, laundromats, and campgrounds are not subject to the same restrictions.

Ruling said that we should respect the conclusions of public health experts but the restrictions under consideration

“…strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty.”

This ruling is only a preliminary injunction, which means the state’s rules may not be enforced until the issue is resolved at full trial. The ruling also only applies to the state of New York.

However, consider the perspectives behind the ruling and how those comments might enter into future cases.

The ruling was unsigned. Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh issued concurring opinions. Justices Roberts, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan issued dissenting opinions. Justices Thomas, Barrett, and Alito sided with majority, but looks like none of them issued a separate opinion. My little brain is still trying to understand how the Supreme Court works, but I think this means either Justice Thomas or Alito wrote the decision.

Other articles have provided multiple quotes from Justice Gorsuch’s concurrence. I’ll just provide one comment. Ponder the future implications of this statement:

“It is time—past time—to make plain that, while the pandemic poses many grave challenges, there is no world in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike shops but shutter churches, synagogues, and mosques.”

Wow. “There is no world in which the Constitution tolerates” this kind of restriction on religious freedom.

Wow.

Looks to me like a majority of the Supreme Court has rediscovered the free exercise clause.


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