US Supreme Court declines to hear COVID church restriction case
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US Supreme Court declines to hear COVID church restriction case

The US Supreme Court on Monday denied a petition for certiorari by Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley regarding Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak’s COVID-19 reopening orders.

Sisolak’s May Emergency Directive 021 allowed businesses like amusement parks, museums and gyms to open at 50 percent capacity but specified that religious institutions could host no more than 50 people at a time, regardless of capacity.

Calvary Chapel immediately challenged the order with a request for injunctive relief, which was denied by a District Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Calvary Chapel appealed to the Supreme Court, but was denied emergency injuctive relief in July. The church then filed for writ of certiorari before the Supreme Court while their circuit court appeal was pending.

On November 25, the Supreme Court granted injuctive relief to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn against New York Governor Cuomo’s emergency orders. Like Sisolak, Cuomo capped religious service attendance at a fixed number regardless of capacity and applied different standards to essential secular businesses.

In December, the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of Calvary Chapel and struck down Sisolak’s emergency order. In their opinion, the circuit court cited Roman Catholic Diocese, saying the Supreme Court’s decision “represented a seismic shift in Free Exercise law” and compelled the Circuit Court’s decision.

In a brief filed in the Supreme Court on January 19, Sisolak claimed that the facts substantially changed since Calvary filed its petition for certiorari in 2020, and “Calvary has already obtained the relief it sought through the petition” at the Circuit Court level. Calvary Chapel maintains that its case is not moot and deserved Supreme Court attention.

Calvary Chapel is just one of many religious freedom cases to emerge from Coronavirus restrictions.