Supreme Court B*^#h Slapped The 9th Circuit Court … Again!
It is very seldom that you hear the Supreme Court criticize another court but this time they did but it was only after the fifth lawsuit all covered by the same constitution. This is the fifth time that SCOTUS had to overrule the 9th, all on religious liberty rights. The Supreme Court has been very clear. You can shut down church services so long as no other group is allowed to remain open.
The final paragraphs of the decision lays out the criticism of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The court was forced once again to strike down a ruling from the 9th Circuit Court.
This is the fifth time the Court has summarily rejected the Ninth Circuit’s analysis of California’s COVID restrictions on religious exercise. See Harvest Rock Church v. Newsom, 592 U. S. ___ (2020); South Bay, 592 U. S. ___; Gish v. Newsom, 592 U. S. ___ (2021); Gateway City, 592 U. S. ___.
It is unsurprising that such litigants are entitled to relief. California’s Blueprint System contains myriad exceptions and accommodations for comparable activities, thus requiring the application of strict scrutiny.
And historically, strict scrutiny requires the State to further ‘interests of the highest order’ by means ‘narrowly tailored in pursuit of those interests.’ Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. Hialeah, 508 U. S. 520, 546 (1993) (internal quotation marks omitted). That standard ‘is not watered down’; it ‘really means what it says.’” Ibid. (quotation altered).
But the court’s ruling is much more than just a criticism, it’s a warning. They do not want to have to waste anymore time on this subject, It is settled law after five rulings to the affirmative right to religious practice. In fact if you read the entire decision, there are warnings and repudiations all through the text. “The Ninth Circuit’s failure to grant an injunction pending appeal was erroneous. This Court’s decisions have made the following points clear.”
Next comes the clincher that the Ninth Circuit judges no doubt understood but about which the members of the majority of the Supremes took care to remind them, publicly:
Third, the government has the burden to establish that the challenged law satisfies strict scrutiny. To do so in this context, it must do more than assert that certain risk factors ‘are always present in worship, or always absent from the other secular activities’ the government may allow …
Instead, narrow tailoring requires the government to show that measures less restrictive of the First Amendment activity could not address its interest in reducing the spread of COVID.
Where the government permits other activities to proceed with precautions, it must show that the religious exercise at issue is more dangerous than those activities even when the same precautions are applied. Otherwise, precautions that suffice for other activities suffice for religious exercise too.
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