The Supreme Court on Friday once again sided with houses of worship challenging regulations aimed at stopping the spread of Covid-19 in California.
The court blocked so-called “gathering restrictions” in Santa Clara county that critics said treated churches differently than secular businesses in violation of the First Amendment.
The issue has bitterly divided the court and the three liberal justices, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor noted their dissent in an order issued after hours on Friday.
The court acted despite the fact that the restrictions are scheduled to be lifted next week.
The dispute was brought by several churches in California’s Santa Clara County which objected to a ban on all indoor gatherings including political events, weddings, funerals, movie showings and worship services.
Although on Feb. 5, the Supreme Court struck down state regulations that banned indoor worship services, the state allows counties to pass their own more strict rules.
In court papers, lawyers for the Santa Clara churches said the county “did just that.”
“The Santa Clara Director of Public Health forced worshipers outdoors in the heat and smoke of the summer and the cold and rain of autumn and winter,” Kevin T. Snider, a lawyer for the churches, argued in court papers.