Many people are wanting the Supreme Court to weigh in on COVID-19 restrictions when it comes to churches, but it will most likely be the next term before that happens. So, what if concerns about COVID-19 go away between now and the start of a new term in October?
Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, says it is still important to get a final decision from the Supreme Court "because these situations are constantly moving targets. And as some say, there may be another wave in the fall."
"Even if there is no wave, and we don't know whether there will be or not, there's another virus that's coming somewhere down the road," Staver continues. "So these things can continue to happen again, and that's why you need to have some finality to this issue -- so that we don't have these governors doing these unconstitutional restrictions on houses of worship."
Last Friday, the Supreme Court rejected an emergency appeal from a California church that challenged state limits on attendance at worship services.
"It doesn't end anything," Staver asserts. "It doesn't even end anything for that case, [as] it was a motion to have an injunction pending appeal from the court to, in other words, interfere with the lower court while the court case was in progress."
Chief Justice John Roberts sided with liberal justices in rejecting the emergency appeal. Roberts wrote in a brief option that the restriction allowing churches to reopen at 25 percent of their capacity, with no more than 100 worshipers at a time, "appears consistent" with the First Amendment. According to Roberts, similar or more severe limits apply to other venues "where large groups of people gather in close proximity for extended periods of time."
"The problem with what the chief justice did was he didn't need to say anything," thinks Staver. "But he gave his two cents, and his two cents show that he's an island by himself, because no one joined him -- not even the other justices who were not ready to grant the motion."
In addition to rejecting the emergency appeal from the California church, the high court declined a case from two churches in the Chicago area that objected to the governor's limits of ten worshipers at services. Prior to the court's discussion on the case, Governor J.B. Pritzker (D-Illinois) revised the restrictions to allow up to 100 people at a time.