A sharply divided Supreme Court late Friday turned aside a church’s urgent plea that California’s coronavirus lockdown orders are putting an unconstitutional burden on religious freedom.
Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court’s liberals in rejecting a San Diego church’s request for relief from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s most recent directive limiting churches to 25% of their normal maximum capacity, with an absolute maximum of 100 people at any service.
In a three-page opinion issued just before the stroke of midnight Washington time, Roberts said it would be unwise for the court to intervene on an emergency basis as state officials try to grapple with the ebb and flow of a pandemic caused by a highly infectious and sometimes deadly virus.
“The precise question of when restrictions on particular social activities should be lifted during the pandemic is a dynamic and fact-intensive matter subject to reasonable disagreement,” Roberts wrote.
The chief justice, an appointee of President George W. Bush, said it was not the role of judges to substitute their judgment for health experts and elected officials who appear to be acting in good faith.