But Supreme Court support for these decisions declined with Ginsburg’s death. Wednesday night’s orders to provide emergency aid to Roman Catholic churches and Jewish congregations in New York proved by many to be suspected that Barrett would stand by the court’s most conservative judiciary if he insisted on a greater adaptation of religion, even if the epidemic recurred.
“Curbing the spread of COVID – 19 is an indisputably compelling interest, but it is difficult to see how the disputed legislation can be considered” narrowly tailored “, the court wrote in its unsigned opinion. “They are much stricter than any COVID regulation previously brought before the Court of Justice, they are much more stringent than those carried out by a number of other jurisdictions severely affected by the epidemic and far more severe than is proven to be necessary to prevent the spread of the virus in the service of applicants.
Barrett did not write a separate opinion on the two New York cases, but the orders indicated that he was part of the majority, supporting the court’s verifying, unsigned opinion.
Roberts and the three remaining Democratic appointees of the court agreed, stressing that there was no need for emergency assistance because Governor Andrew Cuomo had recently classified the areas in question from “orange” to “yellow” in a color-coded system, thus lifting the most burdensome restrictions. .
Under the New York system, congregations ’religious services held in“ red ”zones are limited to 10 people, while those in the“ orange ”zone can receive up to 25 people at a time. On Monday, the Cuomo moved the areas occupied by the religious congregations involved in the lawsuit to the “yellow” zone, lifting the most severe restrictions, but areas on Staten Island and Monroe and Onondaga counties are now under “orange” restrictions.
Roberts said restrictions on religious activities subject to the “orange” or “red” restriction in New York could violate the Constitution, but warned not to jump into this issue when congregations applying to the court are not currently subject to such restrictions.
“It is easy for such restrictions to violate the free practice clause. However, it is not necessary for us to make a decision on this serious and difficult issue at this moment, ”the Chief Justice wrote in his independent disagreement. – The governor can reset the restrictions. But maybe not. And an important issue is to override the decisions of public health officials that are necessary for public safety in the midst of a deadly epidemic. “
“I fear that granting the requests made by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn will only exacerbate the suffering of the Nation,” wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor in a grim dissent, joined by Justice Elena Kagan.
Sotomayor strongly disputed the claim that religious groups were unfairly discriminated against, arguing that comparing religious services with liquor stores or big box stores was too easy because of the health risks associated with viruses that people cultivate in these places, they are radically different.
“Unlike religious services … there are usually no customers in bike repair and liquor stores who gather inside to sing and talk together for an hour or more,” he wrote. “Court judges are playing a deadly game about figuring out the expert opinion of health officials about the environment in which an infectious virus is spreading, which now infects one million Americans a week.”
The recent virus decision triggered an unusually corrosive exchange, albeit in writing, between Justice Neil Gorsuch and Roberts.
Gorsuch seemed to skewer and downplay Roberts ’concurring views on the California cases, which were brought to court in May on an urgent basis.
“As soon as we round to 2020 and envisage a second calendar year living in the shadow of a pandemic, that justification has expired on its own terms,” Gorsuch wrote. “Even if the constitution celebrated at the time of the pandemic, it could become a Sabbath. Instead of applying a non-binding and expired consensus, courts should continue to apply the free practice clause. “
Gorsuch also accused Roberts of “insisting on a serious rewrite of history” now insisting that his May opinion did not rely on a century-old Supreme Court precedent that allows for smallpox vaccination in Massachusetts.
“We may not be able to escape their place when the Constitution is attacked. Things never go well when we do it, ”Gorsuch warned.
But Roberts noted that Gorsuch on Wednesday devoted three pages of his opinion to “exactly one sentence,” written by the Chief Justice in May, referring to the 1905 smallpox vaccination case, Jacobson v Massachusetts.
“What did that one sentence say? It’s just that ‘[o]the Constitution primarily “[t]safety and health of the people ”for“ guarding and protecting ”politically responsible officials of states,” Roberts wrote.
“It’s not clear which part of this lonely quote finds today’s match so frustrating … But the actual statement has to be consistent and the match has to go beyond words to find the goal you’re looking for.”