U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Enjoin Nevada Executive Order Limiting Church Attendance
Jul 30, 2020
In a one sentence order last Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to enjoin the enforcement of Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak’s Directive 021 limiting church attendance to 50 people while a lower court ruling adverse to Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley is being appealed. Chief Justice John Roberts joined the four more liberal judges in refusing to hear the matter.
Supreme Court Allows Nevada to Continue Treating Churches Worse Than Casinos
Governor Sisolak’s directive limits in-person church attendance to a maximum of 50 people, even though casinos, bars, gyms and restaurants to operate at 50 percent capacity. Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley wanted to allow 90 people to attend its services, all of whom would have practiced social distancing and worn masks, and so it sued. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing the church contend the directive violates the church’s rights under the First Amendment to Free Exercise of Religion, as well as, their freedoms of assembly and speech.
The state of Nevada countered saying that church services are treated more favorably under the directive than concerts, lectures, sporting events, and plays and said that Calvary Chapel could accommodate its entire congregation by holding more services.
In a dissent in which Justices Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh joined, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that, “a public health emergency does not give Governors and other public officials carte blanche to disregard the Constitution for as long as the medical problem persists.”
In a separate dissenting opinion Justice Neil Gorsuch stated, “The world we inhabit today, with a pandemic upon us, poses unusual challenges. But there is no world in which the Constitution permits Nevada to favor Caesars Palace over Calvary Chapel.”
ADF will continue to pursue the lawsuit in a trial on the merits of the legality of the directive in the district court.
Justices Decline to Intervene in Dispute Over Nevada COVID-19 Restrictions
SUPREME COURT OPINION
EMERGENCY APPLICATION FOR AN INJUNCTION
DECLARATION OF EMERGENCY DIRECTIVE 021 - PHASE TWO REOPENING PLAN