The United States Supreme Court ruled late Friday night, that California can’t ban home-based religious gatherings like prayer meetings and Bible groups.
The decision derives from the state’s prohibition on gatherings of more than three households in a private home.
Last December, the plaintiffs requested an injunction to stop California from limiting the size of indoor gatherings. The restrictions were put in place to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
The plaintiffs took their case to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit after a judge in the US District Court for the Northern District of California ruled in favour of the government.
The plaintiffs, which include religious and political organizations as well as corporations, sought an immediate injunction as part of their appeal. The plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court after the Ninth Circuit dismissed their applications. The emergency injunction was issued on Friday, but only for religious gatherings.
Except for Chief Justice John Roberts, who supported the dissent with the court’s liberal members, the conservatives of the high court voted to lift the ban on religious gatherings.
It was found by the court’s conservative justices that “California treats some comparable secular activities more favourably than at-home religious exercise, permitting hair salons, retail stores, personal care services … to bring together more than three households at a time.”
As noted in Friday’s order, this isn’t the first time the Supreme Court has overturned a ruling on California coronavirus restrictions.
A complaint filed by Santa Clara County pastor Jeremy Wong and Karen Busch resulted in the ruling. They say the limitations infringed on their First Amendment rights by excluding up to 12 people from gatherings at weekly Bible and prayer sessions.
The decision comes as California prepares to amend its social gatherings policy next week as more people receive vaccinations.