The Supreme Court acted swiftly on Friday, granting an injunction only 9 hours after the briefing concluded in the case Tandon v. Newsom.
The Supreme Court ruled by a 5-4 margin late Friday that California’s coronavirus-related restrictions on gathering in private homes violated constitutional rights on the free exercise of religion, the latest ruling from the high court that prohibits authorities from enforcing limits on religious services.
Five conservative justices agreed that California’s restrictions banning any type of gathering in private homes of more than three households violated the Constitution by treating “comparable secular activity more favorably than at-home religious exercise.”
The justices noted that a lower court, the Ninth Circuit, “did not conclude” that permitted secular activities such as indoor dining and movie theaters “pose a lesser risk of transmission” than religious exercises in a private residence.
The challenge was brought by a pair of Santa Clara County pastors who said the state’s restrictions prevented them from meeting for weekly Bible study and prayer sessions.
Reason’s Josh Blackman wrote a long-form piece explaining the significance of the decision. You can read that here.
The most poignant part was his take on Chief Justice John Roberts:
The Chief Justice dissents, without any explanation:
THE CHIEF JUSTICE would deny the application.
Why did the Chief dissent? Probably because he could not force his five colleagues to wait till April 15 when the order expired. Indeed, he couldn’t even get his colleagues to wait 24 hours. Last term Roberts was in charge. Now he has no sway. At this point, I think the odds of Roberts retiring are greater than of Breyer retiring.
The Supreme Court must now embrace the writings of Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Justice Neil Gorsuch on the matter in a major win for conservatives.