Chief Justice Roberts Takes the Wrong Side Again As SCOTUS Strikes Down Cali's Church Restrictions

P. Gardner Goldsmith | April 14, 2021
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As they already have done five times, the majority on the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) Friday struck down the tyrannical California “COVID-19 Lockdown” edict telling residents that they could not gather for religious purposes in their own homes. And, as one can expect, Chief Justice John Roberts did not side with the majority, did not side with the US Constitution, did not side with free will.

As Brie Stimson reports for FoxNews:

The U.S. Supreme Court in a divided decision late Friday ruled in favor of lifting restrictions on in-home religious gatherings, overturning a lower court ruling that upheld Gov. Gavin Newsom’s limits on people from different homes.

The new ruling comes as another refutation of the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals, leftist members of which repeatedly have upheld Newsom’s ban on religious gatherings, and repeatedly have been slapped down by the SCOTUS on the grounds that Newsom’s harsh restrictions on religious gatherings are not consistent with his less-harsh COVID-19 allowances for large corporate stores, theaters, and supermarkets. This differential was determined to be contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment’s requirement of “equal protection” of the law.

Writes Stimson:

The 5-4 unsigned ruling follows other similar decisions recently regarding churches and the coronavirus pandemic. The decision noted it was the fifth time the court has rejected the Ninth Circuit’s analysis of California coronavirus restrictions.

And she notes:

The majority opinion added that the state can’t ‘assume the worst when people go to worship but assume the best when people go to work,’ in a quote from a previous ruling.

The new case was called “Ritesh Tandon, et al., v Gavin Newsom, Governor of California, et al.” and stems from the prohibition Newsom placed on private religious gatherings in people’s homes.

Observes Stimson:

The lawsuit had been brought by residents in Santa Clara County who hold in-home religious meetings and claimed the restrictions infringed on their constitutional rights, according to The New York Times.

Tandon and the other plaintiffs filed for injunctive relief, but,

A federal judge ruled against the suit, which was upheld by the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco… 

And, though this ruling might be heralded as a victory for religious worship and as another example of John Roberts’ contempt for liberty, the SCOTUS majority is still a bit off base.

The basis of the plaintiffs’ argument was that Newsom’s edicts were breaches of the “Equal Protection Clause” of the Fourteenth Amendment, and, as Stimson notes, the SCOTUS majority decided Friday that Newsom’s orders were unevenly applied, thus, breaking the Amendment.

The majority opinion added that the state can’t ‘assume the worst when people go to worship but assume the best when people go to work,’ in a quote from a previous ruling.

Decided in February, that previous ruling was called “Gateway City Church v. Newsom”, and was another request for injunctive relief to, in that case, tell the government of Santa Clara County, CA, to lift its zero-percent capacity limit on indoor worship that the county politicians had established to accord with Newsom’s lockdowns. At that time, the SCOTUS majority ruled in favor of Gateway City Church “because the regulation violates the right to free exercise of religion under the First Amendment.”

But in this new case, the argument is not focused on the First Amendment, but on the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth, and, though the SCOTUS ruled in against Newsom’s unevenly applied edicts, the idea that an unevenly applied “lockdown order” is “unequal protection under the law” is off base.

Related: US Supreme Court Rules Against California's Lockdown of Churches...Kind Of

First, Newsom’s lockdown edicts are Executive Orders, not statutes, aka “laws.” Second, the Fourteenth Amendment’s “equal protection” clause pertains to “protection” by state/local police and justice systems, not threats and attacks by them. Of course, philosophically and logically, even the so-called “protection” from government is based on the taking of tax money to fund the police, and on the threats behind taxation, so even what many call "protection" by the government is not really “protection” any more than a mafia shakedown racket is “protection.”

Third, Newsom’s edict prohibiting home “worship gatherings” is a breach of the California Constitution, Article One of which prohibits the state from infringing on the right of privacy in the home, the right of speech, and right of worship. As I noted in my MRCTV piece on the February Santa Clara County ruling, the SCOTUS focus on the US First Amendment isn’t really appropriate when analyzing whether a state or local statute infringes on the right of speech or worship. As much as I, or any other proponent of liberty, would prefer it to be otherwise, the First Amendment pertains only to Congress, not the states or localities, and, as a result, one must look at each state constitution when studying local or state speech or worship statutes.

But there are key provisions of the U.S. Constitution to remember in these cases. Those include:

The Fourth Amendment prohibition against police searching a home or person without a judge-issued warrant, the Fifth Amendment requirement of due process (reiterated in the Fourteenth Amendment), the Fifth Amendment prohibition against any government taking property without “just compensation” (which is, itself, problematic, because the government defines what’s “just compensation”), the Sixth Amendment requirement of a speedy jury trial afforded someone accused of breaching a statute, the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment (as I often note, how can a home-based or church-based worshipper be punished for “lockdown breaches” if there has been no trial?), and the Constitution’s Contract Clause, which prohibits state officials from interfering in the fulfillment of private contractual agreements (and agreements to worship in homes, like agreements to open or meet in churches, are private verbal contracts, as valid under Common Law as any form of contract).

Those are key lessons that Americans can take from this ruling and from the February Santa Clara County ruling. They come coupled with the knowledge that Newsom shows utter contempt for his oath to the California and US Constitutions and shows megalomaniacal disrespect for the fundamental rights of others that exist regardless of what those constitutions say.

And they come with the added benefit of seeing that, once more, Chief Justice John Roberts sided against the worshippers, and with the leftist minority on the Supreme Court who would allow Newsom to trample all those US and CA constitutional provisions.

Writes Stimson:

Chief Justice John Roberts dissented but did not sign the dissenting statement submitted by justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer.

Enough said.