SCOTUS flips script on COVID-19 worship bans, but Francis Collins of NIH urges closures

First New York.

Now California.

With the addition of a fifth, solidly conservative member — new Justice Amy
Coney Barrett — the U.S. Supreme Court has flipped the script on months of
legal battles over pandemic-era worship gatherings.

“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,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote last
week as the 5-4 court blocked New York from imposing strict attendance
limits on religious services.

Then on Thursday, the court “sided with a California church protesting Gov.
Gavin Newsom’s pandemic-related restrictions on indoor worship services,”
noted the Washington Post’s Robert Barnes. The brief, unsigned order
returned the issue to lower court judges and “suggests the state’s ban on
indoor services is likely to fall,” reported the Los Angeles Times’ David
G. Savage.

In San Francisco, Catholic Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone has complained
that the city’s “treatment of churches is discriminatory and violates the
right to worship,” as explained by the Catholic News Agency. For more
details on the California battle, see Sacramento Bee writer Dale Kasler’s
story this week on churches defying Newsom’s order.

In related news, the Deseret News’ Kelsey Dallas highlighted a clash over
in-person classes in religious schools in Kentucky. And Boston.com’s Nik
DeCosta-Klipa covered Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s concerns over
“COVID-19 clusters stemming from religious gatherings.”

Here in my home state of Oklahoma, Gov. Kevin Stitt has refused to issue a
statewide mask mandate that might help slow the spread of COVID-19. But he
declared Thursday a day of prayer and fasting over the coronavirus, as
reported by The Associated Press’ Ken Miller.

Amid a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths nationally, a top
public health official Thursday “called on religious leaders to keep their
worship spaces closed, despite rising protests from some church leaders,”
according to NPR’s Tom Gjelten:Read MoreGetReligionRead MoreWorship, Supreme Court, Scriptures, Science, Religious Liberty, Politics, Monday Mix, Godbeat, Evangelicals, Church & State, Charities-Nonprofits, Catholicism, Coronavirus, Bobby Ross Jr.

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