Supreme Court allows more California churches to conduct indoor services, with some limits

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The U.S. Supreme Court granted temporary relief on Monday to pastors who sued California over the state's coronavirus restrictions.

The decision effectively allows a group of houses of worship to conduct indoor services with some limits after a lower court backed the state's restrictions. Monday's order sends the case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals with instructions to remand to the district court.

It comes after a series of controversial cases in which states like California imposed restrictions that came up against religious liberty claims.

On Friday, the justices said in a 6-3 vote that the state could not impose sweeping bans on indoor worship but could cap it at 25% of the building’s capacity.

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Last week's decision showed the justices wrestling with restrictions on indoor singing or chanting, ultimately allowing California to halt those activities.

"The state’s present determination — that the maximum number of adherents who can safely worship in the most cavernous cathedral is zero — appears to reflect not expertise or discretion, but instead insufficient appreciation or consideration of the interests at stake," Chief Justice Roberts said.

Newsom’s office said those measures were imposed to protect worshippers from getting infected.

"We will continue to enforce the restrictions the Supreme Court left in place and, after reviewing the decision, we will issue revised guidelines for worship services to continue to protect the lives of Californians," the governor’s press secretary, Daniel Lopez, said in a statement.

Newsom’s office on Saturday had issued revised guidelines for indoor church services after the Supreme Court lifted the state’s ban on indoor worship during the coronavirus pandemic, but left in place restrictions on singing and chanting.

Gov. Newsom’s handling of the pandemic is believed to have lent support to a recall effort that has generated more than 1.4 million signatures of the nearly 1.5 million required by mid-March to trigger a special election.

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In November, a Sutter county judge tentatively ruled that one of the dozens of executive orders Newsom issued overstepped his authority and was "an unconstitutional exercise of legislative power."

The Supreme Court’s action follows a late 2020 ruling in a 5-4 decision involving New York’s limiting attendance at churches and synagogues. Shortly after, California was told to take another look at its restrictions.

Fox News' Brittany De Lea and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Shannon Bream Fox News