The Supreme Court has stepped into the matter of church services disallowed under the aegis of fighting the spread of COVID-19, reports The Christian Post, allowing the churches of Los Angeles County in California to hold services despite a new statewide stay-at-home order that otherwise prohibits gatherings.
The order by the Department of Health took effect on Nov. 30, directing Los Angeles residents to stay home and not meet with anyone not in one’s own household for three weeks. While all private and public gatherings are banned, however, the order exempts “faith-based services and protests, which are constitutionally protected rights.”
Pacific Justice Institute President and founder Brad Dacus told The Christian Post:
“According to the Supreme Court, the government cannot be more restrictive on houses of worship than they are on other secular entities including essential businesses. What makes this particularly liberating for churches is that some of these essential businesses like airlines are not invoking any limitations like they did before the pandemic. If airports are allowed to fill their businesses with as many people as needed who want to fly, that same standard applies to churches and synagogues.”
Services must still be held outdoors under COVID-19 guidelines, but attendance is not limited as long as social distancing practices are observed and masks are worn.
Despite the temporary county order, which states that essential retail businesses must restrict occupancy to 35 percent and nonessential retail businesses to 20 percent, the county sheriff’s office has announced it will not enforce compliance.