Casinos, but not churches? SCOTUS slammed for turning down Nevada's Covid-19 challenge to lift 50-person cap
By a 5-4 vote, the justices turned down the Reno-area church's claim that the state was unconstitutionally discriminating by imposing stricter requirements on church services
In times of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, a rural Nevada church had requested to lift the 50-person cap on worship services. However, the US Supreme Court on Friday denied the request by Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley in rural Nevada for an interim order that would have allowed it to host services for about 90 congregants. By a 5-4 vote, the justices turned down the Reno-area church's claim that the state was unconstitutionally discriminating by imposing stricter requirements on church services than on Las Vegas casinos. Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative, voted with the court’s four liberal members and the majority did not explain its reasoning.
Justice Samuel Alito said that Nevada was discriminating against religious groups in favor of casinos which under Governor Steve Sisolak’s reopening plans do not face the same 50-person limit on indoor gatherings. “That Nevada would discriminate in favor of the powerful gaming industry and its employees may not come as a surprise, but this Court’s willingness to allow such discrimination is disappointing,” Alito wrote, adding that Sisolak’s plans allow thousands of people to gather in casinos.
Earlier, in an email, David Cortman — senior counsel for Georgia-based Alliance Defending Freedom representing the church — told the Associated Press that they were disappointed in the ruling but will continue to work to protect Calvary Chapel and others “from discriminatory policies that put religious groups at the back of the line for reopening”. He added, "When the government treats churches worse than casinos, gyms, and indoor amusement parks in its COVID-19 response, it clearly violates the Constitution.”
The news soon made its way to Twitter and many reacted to the decision. A tweet read: "Another appalling Supreme Court decision, and another John Roberts disgrace," and another said, "Nevada is discriminating against religion. And the liberal justices are letting them get away with it." Another tweet read: "So casinos can have hundreds of people but churches in Nevada are limited to 50, & SCOTUS agrees. I hope NV churches will defy this ruling. Christ is King."
"Great work SCOTUS. How dare people put a god before the government," one sarcastic tweet read while another said, "Granted, casinos make money for the state and keep people employed. But as the justices indicate, employment and tax revenues are not Constitutionally protected, whereas the right to worship is. If the state is going to take exception action for a crisis, it should do so equally."
However, many were in favor of the decision. "No one was denying anyone their religious freedom as individuals. The pandemic has forced us to restrict some group activities. Maybe the casinos have been too aggressive in reopening? Wear a mask. Help all Americans to vote safely," one tweeted. "Zero loss of religious freedom. You can practice your faith boldly and loudly with zero repercussions. You just can't do it physically inside a building with other people. Virtually? Yes. Outside? Yes," said another.
Many pointed out that the church should start paying taxes. "The church wants to be treated like a secular business? They can start by paying their taxes. If they want to be part of the problem they can at least contribute something to society," one tweet read. Another said, "Cry more and pay some f**king taxes."