Regardless of circumstances, a state government never has the authority to stop services in places of worship. The recent ruling by the Supreme Court is a rightful ruling to protect a first amendment right.
The Supreme Court released its decision regarding the state of California’s ban on indoor church services, saying that California cannot continue such bans, which were initially put into place to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. California has suffered exceptionally difficult struggles in terms of keeping COVID cases, and deaths, at a minimum. California has had some of the strictest lockdowns not just in the country, but in the world. It is understandable that the State of California would want to keep restrictions up across the state while cases are on the rise, however, it is also evident that such severe restrictions were not being placed across all establishments in the state.
Rulings on churches were insisting not upon minimal indoor attendance, but zero indoor services. However, other places, such as grocery stores, restaurants, shops, and even film production establishments in California, have been under separate in-door rules. They have had reasonable expectations set, such as mandatory mask wearing, social distancing, and limited numbers of people allowed indoors.
I believe that California's leniences towards other groups’ restrictions in comparison to Churches can be explained in two ways. First, the state government could be especially hard on religious groups throughout the state, which would not be surprising behavior from an increasingly secular government. Second, the state is being lenient on certain groups for the sake of the economy, or special interest groups that fund the government. However, considering the state has consistently leaned towards harsher restrictions, with especially unfair restrictions placed on houses of worship, it is fair to say that the state simply does not prioritize the needs of faithful California residents.
States have been given extraordinary authority in terms of these lockdowns, being allowed to limit the free travel of citizens and access to private establishments. Such restrictions would be considered criminal outside of the context of the current pandemic, yet still, the state cannot simply take full control over the lives of its citizens, even during times such as these. Especially when it appears that the state is acting in a hypocritical manner, without taking into consideration the needs and desires of all of its citizens.
This is why we have the Supreme Court, to ensure that all levels of government in the United States of America do not act or exercise authority outside of that bestowed upon them by the Constitution. California citizens deserve the right to attend indoor masses, which follow the same regulations as other indoor activities. This includes limited numbers of people, masks, and social distancing. There is no reason for the state to restrict such activities for Christians, Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindu, and more.
The right to practice religion is one of the oldest and most valuable rights given to Americans, being one of the rights on which this country was founded. It is understandable then that many churches and states across the country have resisted at times when they felt there were unfair constraints on their rights. It is true that life has needed to change during this pandemic in order to protect the general health and safety of the public, but it is clear after this Supreme Court ruling that the actions of the California state government have overreached their authority and were not serving the best interests of many citizens.
After this court ruling, not only have indoor religious services resumed, but outdoor services have also received higher attendance numbers, as citizens return back to safely worship their respective faiths. Several precautions have been enforced and required in the past year in order to stop the spread and detrimental effects of this pandemic, but these restrictions are becoming unfair to certain groups, groups who are thankful for the recent court decision to protect their rights.
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Ryan Ford '23,