SCOTUS Strikes Down New York Church Closures

The right to worship trumps the public's health.

WaPo‘s Robert Barnes (“Supreme Court relieves religious organizations from some covid-related restrictions“):

The Supreme Court’s new conservative majority late Wednesday night sided with religious organizations in New York that said they were illegally targeted by pandemic-related restrictions imposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to combat spiking coronavirus cases.

The 5 to 4 order was the first show of solidified conservative strength on the court since the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, whom President Trump chose to replace liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg following her death in September. The decision differed from the court’s previous practice of deferring to local officials on pandemic-related restrictions, even in the area of constitutionally protected religious rights.

“Even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten,” said the unsigned opinion granting a stay of the state’s orders. “The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty.”

The limits were severe, at times limiting worship services to only 10 people. But the state said they were necessary to deal with “hot spots” of virus outbreaks.

The Supreme Court’s order was issued just before midnight, and five justices wrote separately.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who had been the court’s pivotal member in previous emergency applications seeking relief from virus-related restrictions, dissented along with the court’s three liberal members. He noted that while the court was considering the petitions, Cuomo, a Democrat, had eased the restrictions, and thus there was no need for the court to intervene now. “It is a significant matter to override determinations made by public health officials concerning what is necessary for public safety in the midst of a deadly pandemic,” Roberts wrote for himself.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the court was intervening where it should not. “The Constitution does not forbid States from responding to public health crises through regulations that treat religious institutions equally or more favorably than comparable secular institutions, particularly when those regulations save lives,” she wrote, adding, “Justices of this court play a deadly game in second guessing the expert judgment of health officials about the environments in which a contagious virus, now infecting a million Americans each week, spreads most easily.”

The issue has divided the court before. In past cases, Roberts agreed with conservative justices who turned down petitions from prisoners seeking intervention, allowing local corrections officials to set the rules for dealing with the virus. But Roberts sided with the liberals, when Ginsburg was alive, to leave in place restrictions in California and Nevada that imposed strict limits on in-person services at houses of worship.

In the California case, Roberts wrote that fast-changing conditions meant the courts should defer to local officials charged with protecting the public. They “should not be subject to second-guessing by an unelected federal judiciary, which lacks the background, competence and expertise to assess public health and is not accountable to the people,” he wrote.

But the court’s more conservative justices said it violated the Constitution for local officials to impose more drastic restrictions on houses of worship than on businesses considered essential.

In a speech to the conservative Federalist Society earlier this month, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. amplified his objections, saying the pandemic “has resulted in previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty.” He continued: “This is especially evident with respect to religious liberty. It pains me to say this, but in certain quarters religious liberty is fast becoming a disfavored right.”

Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, another Trump appointee to the court, took pointed aim at Roberts’s opinion in the California case, and declared that it should no longer guide lower courts when weighing pandemic-related restrictions on religious services. “Courts must resume applying the Free Exercise Clause,” Gorsuch wrote. “Today, a majority of the Court makes this plain.” He said the order should dispel “misconceptions about the role of the Constitution in times of crisis, which have already been permitted to persist for too long.”

NYT‘s Adam Liptak (“Splitting 5 to 4, Supreme Court Backs Religious Challenge to Cuomo’s Virus Shutdown Order“) adds:

The order was the first in which the court’s newest member, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, played a decisive role.

The court’s ruling was at odds with earlier ones concerning churches in California and Nevada. In those cases, decided in May and July, the court allowed the states’ governors to restrict attendance at religious services.

The Supreme Court’s membership has changed since then, with Justice Barrett succeeding Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September. The vote in the earlier cases was also 5 to 4, but in the opposite direction, with Chief Justice Roberts joining Justice Ginsburg and the other three members of what was then the court’s four-member liberal wing.

[…]

In an unsigned opinion, the majority said Mr. Cuomo’s restrictions violated the First Amendment’s protection of the free exercise of religion.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch said Mr. Cuomo had treated secular activities more favorably than religious ones.

“It is time — past time — to make plain that, while the pandemic poses many grave challenges, there is no world in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike shops but shutter churches, synagogues and mosques,” Justice Gorsuch wrote.

POLITICO‘s Josh Gerstein (“Major shift at Supreme Court on Covid-19 orders“) adds:

“Stemming the spread of COVID-19 is unquestionably a compelling interest, but it is hard to see how the challenged regulations can be regarded as ‘narrowly tailored,'” the court wrote in an unsigned opinion. “They are far more restrictive than any COVID-related regulations that have previously come before the Court, much tighter than those adopted by many other jurisdictions hard-hit by the pandemic, and far more severe than has been shown to be required to prevent the spread of the virus at the applicants’ services.”

[…]

Sotomayor vigorously disputed the contention that the religious groups were being unfairly discriminated against, arguing that comparisons between religious services and liquor or big-box stores were overly facile because the virus-related health risks posed by what people do in those places are starkly different.

“Unlike religious services … bike repair shops and liquor stores generally do not feature customers gathering inside to sing and speak together for an hour or more at a time,” she wrote.

As much as conservatives decry judicial activism, that’s what they did in this ruling. They have substituted their judgment for that of the state officials elected to make these decisisons.

The right of Americans to freely exercise their religion is robust but not absolute. It has been settled for six decades now that, “‘If the State regulates conduct by enacting a general law within its power, the purpose and effect of which is to advance the State’s secular goals, the statute is valid despite its indirect burden on religious observance unless the State may accomplish its purpose by means which do not impose such a burden.”

Whether correct or not, the government of New York has determined that capacity restrictions are required in areas where COVID infection rates are high. They have further differentiated by different types of gatherings and establishments based on weighing the scientific evidence and public policy impacts. Again, the judgments could well be incorrect. But they’re ones Cuomo has been elected to make by the people of New York.

The secular purpose of the restrictions is undisputed: saving lives. And there is no available alternative that would achieve the same goal.

To the layman, it may well seem outrageous that liquor stores and bike shops are allowed to remain open while churches are not. But Sotomayor is right: incredibly different behaviors take place in these venues. Church services simply entail much longer periods of contact—and, yes, singing, which is a particularly robust way to spread the disease—with more people. Bike shops tend not to be crowded or require long visits. Liquor stores are very much in and out. And singing tends to be strongly discouraged in both.

FILED UNDER: COVID-19, First Amendment, Law and the Courts, U.S. Constitution
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Note: typo in last sentence kind of dulls impact of good closer.

    The idea that you need to be in a specific building to worship is not true. God can handle the thought of people “worshipping” Him privately at home. According to Jesus, it’s actually the best way.

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  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Pro-Life my ass.

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  3. James Joyner says:

    @Not the IT Dept.: Fixed. (For some reason, I wanted to spell singing “signing” this morning. I caught it once but not the second time.)

    People can watch sporting events on their television and get more out of the game than they would in a crowded arena. But many people prefer the communal experience of being there. I think the same is true of worship services: for many, participating via Zoom is simply not the same.

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  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Not the IT Dept.: I have “Matthew 6: 6-5” on the back of my truck, just this atheist’s way of saying, “Keep your religion to yourself.”

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  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner: Yeah, and I get it*, but I wonder how communal they think ICU is.

    *( it’s safe to say that is why there is organized religion)

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  6. Not the IT Dept. says:

    @James Joyner: But many people prefer the communal experience of being there.

    Yeah, just think how many of your fellow Christians will come to your funeral if you catch the virus. You’ll be sorry you missed it.

    Honestly, when did America become pussy-nation? You can hold off on the singing for a few more months to do your CHRISTIAN duty to help your neighbors during this awful time.

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  7. DrDaveT says:

    The right to worship trumps the public’s health.

    Clearly, Mary Mallon’s attorneys made the wrong argument. Rather than claiming that her economic welfare depended on her being free to ply her trade, they should have argued that her spiritual welfare required it. Can’t let a few pesky infections stand in the way of religious freedom…

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  8. OrthodoxChristianNY says:

    @Not the IT Dept.: Wrong. You can’t receive the Sacraments at home. Christians did use private houses for public worship, but they still gathered in large numbers within them, so your point is ignorant.

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  9. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    Hard to judge from the outside.

    While I find the reasons given by the state compelling, the question for me would be, if sufficient consideration has been given to religious liberty. Especially, if other venues having long stay times were exempted or if an exception could have been added for services without singing.

    A lot of these ordinances are written quickly by junior staff in response to dire needs. This tends to make them sloppy in drafting.

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  10. Mikey says:

    The order was the first in which the court’s newest member, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, played a decisive role.

    Wow, I thought it would take her much longer to start joining opinions that will kill people.

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  11. Northerner says:

    To the layman, it may well seem outrageous that liquor stores and bike shops are allowed to remain open while churches are not. But Sotomayor is right: incredibly different behaviors take place in these venues. Church services simply entail much longer periods of contact—and, yes, singing, which is a particularly robust way to spread the disease—with more people. Bike shops tend not to be crowded or require long visits. Liquor stores are very much in and out. And singing tends to be strongly discouraged in both.

    Though the irony of allowing people to purchase alcohol (an immune system depressant which causes all sorts of social problems) but not go to church stands out to a lot of people (even me, and I don’t go to church). Bike stores make more sense — people getting exercise makes a lot of sense.

    They might have been better off shutting down liquor stores along with churches for PR reasons (and PR is not a minor issue with something like this). Especially given the uncertainties in much of our understanding of how Covid is passed (after the fiasco of initially saying masks were harmful a lot of people don’t trust official statements). Erring on the side of caution is good — but allowing alcohol but not church feels biased, even if its based on current (but ever changing) Covid science.

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  12. Kylopod says:

    There’s a long-time principle in Judaism that a person’s life takes absolute precedence over any religious ritual. For instance, during a cholera outbreak in the 19th century, a famous rabbi not only decreed that his community shouldn’t fast on Yom Kippur, he went out and ate and drank in public view just to make sure they got the point. The concept of a quarantine to protect against the spread of disease is in the Bible itself. When I see Hasidim doing all those big gatherings, my impression is that it’s not so much they’re misinterpreting their own religion as that they’re so mired in rejection of modern science they actually don’t think they’re putting their lives at risk. But even that gets a little tricky–I’ve detected some level of Christian Science-like “God will protect us”-type beliefs, which strikes me as a fairly new phenomenon in the religion.

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  13. charon says:

    Bike shops tend not to be crowded or require long visits.

    Especially if they have a no browsing policy, I was impressed how careful with precautions my shop is.

    Exercise is health, and my bike is how. But if a shifter cable breaks, I can’t fix that myself, it’s off to the bike shop for the repair.

    You don’t need to go to church to sing, you can do that over Zoom.

    A religious wedding

    https://pbs.twimg.com/card_img/1331298726057570305/o-LprpSm?format=jpg&name=small

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  14. charon says:

    @Kylopod:

    As per the link I posted above

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  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Northerner: They might have been better off shutting down liquor stores

    Yeah, they tried that 100 yrs ago. Didn’t work out so well.

    ETA: had to fix what I quoted

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  16. drj says:

    @Northerner:

    They might have been better off shutting down liquor stores along with churches for PR reasons (and PR is not a minor issue with something like this).

    As a general legal principle, (emergency) government restrictions need to be proportionate to the harm these restrictions seek to prevent or address.

    Shutting down a store for “PR reasons” would get the government laughed out of court, because PR measures don’t prevent any actual harm. Hence, there would (almost certainly) be no legal basis for what you propose.

    What this means, from a legal perspective, is that a majority on the SC believes that the harm of not being able to worship in groups larger than 10 persons outweighs the harm of a bunch of (other) people dying.

    In other words, religion is more important than life itself.

    For a believer this is par for the course. For non-believers (in a nominally secular country), this is pretty grim stuff.

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  17. Kathy says:

    Curious to see Christians in this day and age revive the custom of human sacrifice.

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  18. James Joyner says:

    @Northerner:

    the irony of allowing people to purchase alcohol

    Granting that the latter is a specifically-protected Constitutional right and the former was briefly banned by the Constitution, I understand why the juxtaposition seems odd. But going to the liquor store is probably less dangerous than going to the grocery store. Going to church is any meaningful way is much, much riskier.

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  19. sam says:

    Maybe the Constitution is a suicide pact.

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  20. drj says:

    @James Joyner:

    But going to the liquor store is probably less dangerous than going to the grocery store. Going to church is any meaningful way is much, much riskier.

    You may think that it’s about risk, but noted legal luminary Neil Gorsuch is fully aware that Covid-19-related restrictions on worship are just a liberal ploy to attack Christianity:

    At the same time, the Governor has chosen to impose no capacity restrictions on certain businesses he considers “essential.” And it turns out the businesses the Governor considers essential include hardware stores, acupuncturists, and liquor stores. Bicycle repair shops, certain signage companies, accountants, lawyers, and insurance agents are all essential too. So, at least according to the Governor, it may be unsafe to go to church, but it is always fine to pick up another bottle of wine, shop for a new bike, or spend the afternoon exploring your distal points and meridians. Who knew public health would so perfectly align with secular convenience?

    Culture war virtue signaling by the Supremes in the middle of a pandemic may be less than ideal…

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  21. Mikey says:

    @drj: You’d think an esteemed judicial mind like Gorsuch would understand basic concepts like “strawman argument” and “non sequitur,” but here we are.

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  22. Michael Reynolds says:

    Gee, I thought the only problem religion was white evangelical Christianity. I was lectured on this at some length. ‘Not all religions.’ But here’s a suit that includes Jewish plaintiffs being decided by Catholics on the same grounds as evangelicals: non-existent sky daddy no like.

    American citizens are to be sacrificed – killed – by evangelical Protestants, Catholics and Jews, because even though God is everywhere, for some reason no, he’s mostly at the building where they can collect money.

    Religion is a poison in the mind, GIGO, and it kills.

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  23. @Northerner:

    but allowing alcohol but not church feels biased

    On that framing alone, I would agree.

    But the real framing should be: a small number of people are allowed to gather for brief encounters versus a large number of people gathering for well over 15 minutes while likely singing and so forth.

    If there are other secular organizations allowed to meet under such circumstances, then there would clearly be grounds for complaint. Alcohol v. religion is just sensationalism, IMHO.

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  24. Kathy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    A better comparison would be allowing bars and forbidding religious services.

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  25. Northerner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    But the real framing should be: a small number of people are allowed to gather for brief encounters versus a large number of people gathering for well over 15 minutes while likely singing and so forth.

    Actually that sounds like the most reasonable way of doing it — instead of specifying by type of activity (church, liquor purchase etc), specify size of gatherings and actions. It avoids the sense of unfairness that’s driving a lot of the resistance to taking the proper steps. Instead of banning church services, say the service (and everything else) is limited to 15 people for say half an hour — it probably won’t make the people who want large services happy, but it’ll take away the argument that they’re being explicitly singled out.

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  26. SenyorDave says:

    I assume this sets up the future court cases where a Christian will come in and claim that I have to fire this person because I found he is gay and my religion says we can’t have those icky people around because, well, God says so.
    With Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett, the sky’s the limit. Almost any argument will do with those five, especially if it is a religious case.

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  27. Northerner says:

    @James Joyner:

    Probably, but right now the battle is to gain people’s cooperation, so coming up with neutral restrictions would be very useful. Steve Taylor implied one way of doing so — restrictions not based on activity type (say church or shopping) but size (say 15 people for half-an hour). It would have the same result but would sound much fairer.

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  28. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Northerner:

    The rational for leaving liquor stores open is that alcoholics going through withdrawal would likely flood the medical system when it is already stressed.

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  29. Not the IT Dept. says:

    @OrthodoxChristianNY:

    And not receiving sacraments is something you’ll have to forgo for a few more months. No one said there wouldn’t be sacrifices but adults know and understand that.

    And I was referring to Jesus’ remarks in Matthew 6: 6-5. Which you might find, shall we say, helpful in getting your head around what Jesus really meant.

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  30. Northerner says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Do you think they’d have been any more successful a hundred years ago if they’d tried to shut down all churches? The point of responses to Covid is that exceptional steps have to be taken, and doing so in a way that sounds fair is a big part of getting buy-in. Limiting gathering sizes and spacing is fair, saying one kind of activity is allowed but another isn’t irrespective of size sounds biased. For instance, would a church service that went on for half an hour with 15 widely spaced people be any riskier than shopping in a crowded store (including standing in line at the checkout) for half an hour?

    The trick is to get most people to think the restrictions are being handled fairly.

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  31. Thomm says:

    @Northerner: here is a major difference, sudden detox for a serve alcoholic can lead to hospitalization or death. Never heard of someone dying or going in the hospital since they couldn’t worship their god in a building with others.

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  32. drj says:

    @Not the IT Dept.:

    “OrthodoxChristianNY” is bullshitting. You can receive the sacraments at home. It’s not the location, but the presence of a priest that matters (assuming we’re talking Catholic doctrine here).

    But that entire point is moot, because religious services weren’t banned. There was just a limit on the number of congregants. So the easy solution would have been more and shorter services – in order to save lives. Apparently, that was too much trouble.

    @Northerner:

    but it’ll take away the argument that they’re being explicitly singled out.

    Churches were, in fact, explicitly singled out: favorably. Churches faced fewer restrictions than establishments with similar kinds of social gatherings. But even that was oppression, I guess.

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  33. Joe says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    I think “essential workers” was the wrong framing, though coming up with an alternative shorthand is no simple task. Liquor stores aren’t open because they’re “essential” (though I take the arguments to the contrary), they are open because, as we normally use them, they are not conducive to virus exposure. Churches aren’t closed because they’re not essential (clearly they are to some and we can bicker about the reasoning), they are closed because, as we normally use them, they are highly conducive to virus exposure. Drawing the lines requires some expertise, including in public health messaging, and it will necessarily create some arbitrary-looking boundaries. But simply weighting some judgment of the moral good of the activity is shooting entirely in the wrong direction.

    Now, those of us who participate in religious communities will learn whether our particular religious community leaders can figure out the public safety of their flocks. The Hasidim clearly can’t and I am sorry for them.

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  34. steve says:

    “in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive edicts that reopen liquor stores”

    His liquor stores must be different than mine. We usually dont have hundreds of people hanging out for a couple of hours and sing hymns. Also, I must confess, I tended to socially distance from a lot of the liquor store customers even before Covid which is easy do in a liquor store. Sitting in pews next to each other? Not so much.

    Steve

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  35. Mister Bluster says:

    Aramaic Bible in Plain English
    5 And when you pray, be not like the pretenders who like to stand in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets to pray, that they may be seen by the children of men, and truly I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, enter into your closet and lock your door, and pray to your father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you in public.

    Why am I confused?
    I can see Matthew 6: 5-6 as quoted above.
    But Matthew 6: 6-5?
    Maybe Aramaic is one of those languages that reads from right to left.

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  36. Jay L Gischer says:

    What happened, I wonder, to stare decisis? James is right, this is judicial activism of exactly the sort the conservatives always complained about. And so was the nullification of the VRA, and so was the gutting of Obamacare’s Medicaid extension.

    It’s one of those “principles” espoused by conservatives that I cannot give any credit to, or take seriously. Like “federalism” and states rights. They only thump that tub when its convenient.

    Like so many things, there’s a core concern that I can at least sympathize with: “I want to go to church”. We expect the highest court in the land, though, to make decisions a bit less emotionally.

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  37. charon says:

    @Joe:

    The Hasidim clearly can’t and I am sorry for them.

    Measles outbreaks in these communities a while back because anti-vaxxers. So maybe no Covid-19 vaccination for them?

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  38. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Jay L Gischer:
    There are only three conservative principles: greed, sexism and white power. Everything else is cover for greed, sexism or white power.

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  39. gVOR08 says:

    Death cult. Turns out they really are one. Hoocoodanode. In their minds this decision is legal and proper because they see it as owning the libs bigly.

    @Jay L Gischer:

    What happened, I wonder, to stare decisis?

    Originalism. They have declared originalism is the only correct and proper way to interpret the Constitution. Any past decision that differs from their originalist interpretation is therefore, by definition, wrongly decided.

    This religious stuff is just the tip of the iceberg. Wait to see what they do to safety, environmental, and financial regulation and civil rights. Bend over, we’re going to get it hot and hard.

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  40. Michael Reynolds says:

    Death cult. Turns out they really are one.

    Hundreds of thousands of Americans are knowingly exposing themselves and their families to a disease, and in many cases, dying. For Trump. To demonstrate their submission to him. Jim Jones. David Koresh. Heaven’s Gate. Cult45. In the end all cults require death.

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  41. Monala says:

    @drj: in the recent case regarding Catholic Charities and the city of Philadelphia where the city had terminated its contract for foster care services due to CC’s policy of not certifying LGBTQ foster parents, the conservative judges made the same strawman arguments. “This is because they hate Christians!” – even though the city has continued to give millions in contract dollars to CC for other services. “The city is trying to tear the church down by suing them!” – even though it was the city that was sued.

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  42. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Northerner:

    but it’ll take away the argument that they’re being explicitly singled out.

    Evangelicals, and by extension practitioners of other religions with which I have no history, will find a way to see themselves as oppressed to the degree that oppressed is how they want to view themselves. Before Covid, evangelicals claimed to be oppressed by gay marriage; before gay marriage, evangelicals claimed to be oppressed by restrictions on school prayer; when Christianity was the dominant religion in a society that was in no meaningful way as secular as the one we live in now–and I’m old enough so that I remember those times–evangelicals claimed they were oppressed because not everyone agreed with their views on consuming alcohol and tobacco. To quote Emily Litella, “it’s always something.”

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  43. Loviatar says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    There are only three conservative principles: greed, sexism and white power. Everything else is cover for greed, sexism or white power.

    Just to confirm, James Joyner is a self-proclaimed what again?

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  44. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @drj:

    “OrthodoxChristianNY” is bullshitting. You can receive the sacraments at home.

    In fact my wife gave communion to a quarantined neighbor last Saturday. Weddings (including Catholic) are performed at home. Last Rights ( anointing of the sick) is regularly done in homes and hospitals. Confessions can be done anywhere.
    So yes, OrthodoxChristianNY is bullshitting.

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  45. Gustopher says:

    Some enterprising young lawyer working on a discrimination case involving the colorblind has highlighted this passage of Alito’s concurrence:

    there is no world in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive edicts

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  46. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Loviatar:
    I’ve reminded James on several occasions that his former party has been getting elected on coded racism since at least 1968.

    James is evolving, moving steadily left, and while he may call himself a conservative still, he’s long since left them behind on issue after issue. At the point where you’re defending trans bathrooms you can call yourself a conservative, but conservatives won’t agree.

    It’s a bit like when I still refer to myself (and think of myself), as a ‘blue collar guy’, despite the fact that for about 30 of my 50 years of employment, I’ve earned all of my income from writing, which, under the old-school rules would make me part of the intelligentsia. I can’t quite bring myself to accept that label because it seems self-important. Perhaps James has the same reluctance to wear the label that would most accurately describe him now: a national security Democrat.

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  47. de stijl says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    In spirit, I am a Romanticist. But I made my bones and my money on analysis, process, and systems.

    Not a dichotomy.

    I can be awed by nature and design you the proper database for your need simultaneously. (The interface is the tricky bit.)

    In your case, just don’t go full Bukowski. He fethishized dead-end alcoholic blue-collar life to the detriment of his talent.

    I admire and like a lot of Bukowski, but dude was a major asshole too. Grandiose and short-sighted.

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  48. Loviatar says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I’ve reminded James on several occasions that his former party has been getting elected on coded racism since at least 1968.

    Yep, and he was part of helping the racist party get elected for the past 50+ years. Oh, and the racism wasn’t that “coded”.

    —–

    James is evolving, moving steadily left, and while he may call himself a conservative still, he’s long since left them behind on issue after issue.

    I’ve notice you and many of the commenters here defend James with those type comments. I don’t see that evolution. What I see is that while the Republican party went batshit crazy, he basically stayed as a right-wing Republican It then makes it seem like hes evolved into what you call a national security Democrat. He hasn’t.

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  49. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Northerner: Do you think they’d have been any more successful a hundred years ago if they’d tried to shut down all churches?

    Wee thing you are missing: Cuomo was not shutting down churches. He was limiting the # of attendees to any one service. This right here,

    “The restrictions at issue here, by effectively

    barring many from attending religious services

    , strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty.”

    Is absolute bullshit. The Catholic church I grew up in could easily accommodate 50-75 socially distanced people wearing masks and foregoing the singing of hymns. A priest could do a dozen down and dirty masses a day, doing them 6 days a week if he wants to be sure to accommodate every parishioner. Other than mega churches, I can think of not a single church that could not find an acceptable workaround.

    They could even find a way to give Orthodox Christian his sacraments. Religious faiths have been evolving and adapting for thousands of years. Those that couldn’t went extinct. If some faith or congregation can’t adapt and change to fit the extreme circumstances of a pandemic, maybe they should go extinct as well, without killing the innocent of other faiths or no faith at all.

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  50. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Mister Bluster: But Matthew 6: 6-5?

    Oh, I’m sorry, I had no idea my latent dyslexia could be such a bother for someone.

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  51. Kathy says:

    @Loviatar:

    I found this blog because I followed Doug on Facebook*. I thought of it as his blog, as he posted the majority of the content. Later when I began to post comments (and wasn’t that a delight for a comment section!), I learned little by little it was more complicated than that.

    Doug, alas, has abandoned this blog. James and Steven and Kingdaddy have kept it going, and have kept it as a pleasant place for thoughtful (and snarky) conversation, and beyond that, they all strike me as good people.

    I don’t know any of them well, as all I know about them is what they’ve shared here, and that for only a couple of years. Therefore, I don’t know how, or whether, any of them have evolved in their views or politics. I do know in many things that matter, beyond removing Trump from office, they are on the the same side as most of the commenting readership here.

    I don’t feel a need to defend James. I’m sure he’s quite capable of defending himself. But he has my support, and I assume that of many others in here.

    *I think I still follow him there, but he hasn’t posted or commented in months.

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  52. grumpy realist says:

    (shrugs shoulders.) Let the stupid die….

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  53. Mister Bluster says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:..latent dyslexia
    While you may have mentioned this in the past I either missed it or forgot.
    When I read your post of 7:38 today I figured it was a typo and didn’t give it another thought as I butcher script on these threads all the time. When I saw the same expression by Not the IT Dept. @ 11:09 today I considered that since I am hardly a Biblical scholar I may well be missing something thus my genuine confusion.
    ————
    So here’s ths EDIT key again. Can’t let it go to waste.
    Happy Thanksgiving to All!

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  54. JDM says:

    @grumpy realist: Let the stupid die….

    Exactly. A new chapter in the Darwin Award series. I actually get giddy over the thought of thousands of religious conservatives spreading a deadly virus amongst themselves. Especially those older sicker voters in Georgia. If enough of them get incapacitated, it would be a coup for the Democrates.

    And I always wanted an easy way to spot stupid people, so I could avoid interacting with them. Now we have it. They wear red MAGA hats and don’t wear a face mask. Life is easier now.

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  55. Loviatar says:

    @Kathy:

    I’ll start by repeating a statement I’ve made in the past.
    James Joyner is a stand-in for all the Republicans (The Lincoln Project, etc.), who no matter what they’ve done or what destructive policy they’ve supported – which many still support – are always forgiven, defended and supported by a significant group of Americans. I’ve never understood why.

    James Joyner hasn’t changed, he is still the person who supported the racist, sexist Republican party for 50+ years. While the Republican party may have changed and gotten worse, that doesn’t mean that James has gotten better. Realize, he only stopped being an eager participant of the racist, sexist Republican party when the party elected a leader who was too stupid to hide his and the party’s obvious racism and sexism behind code words and dog-whistles.

    I’m know I offend some here when I point out how James’ past actions and current words conflict with the narrative that he is becoming more moderate, but then I’m not as forgiving as most. I believe your words and actions should be held against you until you’ve proven you’ve changed. James Joyner hasn’t changed.

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  56. de stijl says:

    @JDM:

    Think about this again next time you are at the grocery store. These are neighbors.

    Viruses do not care about party affiliation. A host is a host.

    Don’t be flippant about sickness and death. You could be next.

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  57. de stijl says:

    @grumpy realist:

    dbaa.

    People are dying. 262,000 and counting. The equivalent of Laredo are dead. Many more are sick.

    The people you shrug about are at your grocery store or are pumping gas at the next pump and they’ve already used the squeegee.

    Please understand community spread.

    And dbaa.

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  58. Northerner says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Wee thing you are missing: Cuomo was not shutting down churches. He was limiting the # of attendees to any one service.

    In that case the court decision is absolute garbage. Of course limiting the number attendees should be allowed during a pandemic. Sorry I didn’t catch that before, the description just said shut-down, not size limit.

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