UNITED STATES— On Friday, May 29, The Supreme Court ruled against South Bay United Pentecostal Church in South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom. The 5-4 decision established that the state of California was not abridging religious liberty by prohibiting churches from holding in-person services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Governor Newsom had equated opening churches to cultural ceremonies, entertainment venues, gyms, etc. All of which would occur in the later stages of his plan. However, while the case was still pending, California eased its restrictions on churches and allowed for them to practice so long as the amount of attendees did not exceed 25 percent of the establishment’s capacity.

The conservative Justice John G. Roberts Jr. sided with the liberal wing. He stated: “Although California’s guidelines place restrictions on places of worship, those restrictions appear consistent with the free exercise clause of the First Amendment.” 

The dissents were Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh.

“The church and its congregants simply want to be treated equally to comparable secular businesses… California already trusts its residents and any number of businesses to adhere to proper social distancing and hygiene practices,” said Kavanaugh in an opinion against the ruling.

One week ago, President Donald Trump deemed houses of worship to be “essential places that provide essential services” and urged governors to lift their restrictions.