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US Supreme Court Affirms Restrictions on In-Person Worship

Peace and good health to you all on this beautiful June afternoon, when trying to keep up with events swirling around us can certainly cause our heads to spin.

On the afternoon of May 29, 2020, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision (5-4, of course, with the Chief Justice joining “The Liberals”), which affirmed the lower court’s decision, and rejected a California church’s efforts to overturn its State’s restrictions on in-person religious services (South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Gavin Newsom, Governor), stating “Although California’s guidelines place restrictions on places of worship, those restrictions appear consistent with the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.”  The Governor’s order limited congregations to the lesser of 25% capacity or 100 attendees; the church claimed their services typically consisted of between 200-300 congregants. The decision also noted that the Governor’s order was consistent in limiting not just religious services, but also various kinds of activities “where large groups of people gather in close proximity for extended periods of time.”

In a separate case (Elim Romanian Church v J.B. Pritzker, Governor), the Supreme Court also rejected a lawsuit by two Illinois churches seeking to block their Governor’s order limiting religious services to 10.  Probably due to their decision in the California case, decided the same day, the decision in the Illinois case was without opinion or dissent.

The information in this article is continuously changing and being updated.  This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or business advice. In no way is Capell Barnett Matalon & Schoenfeld LLP advising that it is appropriate to only follow the information listed here. If your religious corporation or nonprofit organization requires assistance, please contact  Joseph Milano Esq.,, Peter Sanders Esq.,, or Elizabeth Cate Esq.,