A Colorado church is asking the Supreme Court for relief from COVID restrictions in the centennial state, arguing that churches are treated less favorably than other establishments under the rules.
The High Plains Harvest Church and its pastor, Mark Hotaling, seek an injunction against a limit of 50 people in places of worship under Governor Jared Polis and Colorado Department of Health and Environment Executive Director Jill Hunsaker Ryan, pending appeal review.
“The keystone of the state’s justification attempt to discriminate against churches in favor of secular uses is that churches are somehow particularly risky environments for the spread of COVID-19,” the petition reads. . “But the data is deeply at odds with the state’s position.”
Based on geography, the petition will go to Judge Neil Gorsuch – who can choose to act on the matter alone or send it to the full court.
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Last week, in an opinion from the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s coronavirus restrictions in areas facing spikes in new cases, Gorsuch chose strong words to defend religious freedom protections in under the First Amendment.
“The government is not free to ignore the First Amendment in times of crisis,” he wrote in a concurring opinion. “At a minimum, this amendment prohibits government officials from treating religious exercises any worse than comparable secular activities, unless they pursue a compelling interest and use the least restrictive means available … Yet recently , during the COVID pandemic, some states appear to have ignored these long established principles.
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States should keep these principles in mind when drafting coronavirus precautions, he said.
“Although the pandemic poses many serious challenges, there is no world in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive decrees that reopen liquor stores and bicycle shops but close churches, synagogues and mosques, ”he wrote.
Fox News’ Bill Mears and Shannon Bream contributed to this report.