“Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or the free exercise thereof.”
It has never been argued that the meaning of the Bill of Rights’ opening phrase is not at least a little hazy, but those blessed with the reading comprehension level of a fourth-grader know that some cases, like California’s decision to rule church services as “unessential” (thus shutting them down) is a clearcut violation of the free exercise clause.
Chief Justice John Roberts, as well as the courts other four liberal judges, decided that they would circumvent this seemingly obvious fact. In what seemed like a quote directly from the Babylon Bee, Roberts argues that “Although California’s guidelines place restrictions on places of worship, those restrictions appear consistent with the free exercise clause of the First Amendment.” The restrictions Roberts describes are, as mentioned above, the complete shutdown of in-person worship services. How is it, you may ask, that individuals we consider to be the country’s foremost experts on the constitution could make such an obvious mistake? The simple answer is that it wasn’t a mistake.
Faux ‘conservative’ John Roberts, along with his left-wing majority, has made a deliberate political decision that puts religion on shakier constitutional grounds than ever before. Roberts defended his decision by arguing that “Similar or more severe restrictions apply to comparable secular gatherings”. This statement is almost entirely true. Roberts could have been more accurate and said that similar or more severe restrictions apply to comparable non-essential gatherings.
This ruling is dangerous for two major reasons. First, it is a textbook example of the supreme court valuing the “greater good” over individual liberty. The United States was founded on quite the opposite, and this decision marks another example of a trend that will eventually make the Bill of Rights vestigial in the name of whatever obscure “greater good” the government is dealing with at that particular time.
Perhaps more important is the precedent set by this case that religious gatherings can be grouped with the organizations/businesses/etc. that are bound by the most restrictions in a given situation. Supreme Court precedent has been fairly consistent in saying that a law does not violate the free-exercise clause insofar as it does not single out religion for restriction. For instance, Employment Division vs. Smith was a 1989 case in which the court ruled that Native Americans could not take peyote for religious reasons because nobody is allowed to take peyote for any reason. The detriment of the court’s recent decision to modify this precedent cannot be overstated. Now, the Supreme Court can restrict church services to the extent that at least one other business is restricted. Religious America should be outraged by this decision because it opens the door to much more egregious free-exercise infringements.