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U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of Colorado church challenging state

U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of Colorado church that challenged state’s gathering restrictions

Doug Mills/The New York Times via AP, Pool
President Donald Trump gives his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019 at the Capitol in Washington, as Supreme Court Justices John Roberts, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, look on.

(The Center Square) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday sided with a Colorado church in its challenge of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions, vacating a lower court’s order and requiring a federal appeals court to reexamine the case.

High Plains Harvest Church in Ault, Colorado, submitted an application for injunctive relief to Justice Neil Gorsuch earlier this month, arguing the state’s 50-person cap on “houses of worship” was discriminatory.

The state of Colorado responded, noting that state health orders were amended following the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of houses of worship in Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo, and that they “now have no more restrictions than any other critical business in the state.”

“High Plains already has the relief it seeks,” the state argued.

While the court's unsigned opinion does not rule directly on the state of Colorado’s capacity restrictions, it orders the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals “to remand to the District Court for further consideration in light of Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo.”

Three Supreme Court justices dissented in the Tuesday opinion, arguing the “case is moot” since the state of Colorado later vacated the restrictions after a ruling in the New York case.

“Absent our issuing different guidance, there is no reason to think Colorado will reverse course – and so no reason to think Harvest Church will again face capacity limits,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote.

In May, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a statement of interest in the church’s case as part of a broader effort “to review state and local policies to ensure that civil liberties are protected” during the pandemic.

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