The Supreme Court has consistently struck down unlawful lockdown orders issued by California Governor Gavin Newsom. On late Friday night, it did it once again, bringing the total to five times.
In the case Ritesh Tandon, et al. v. Gavin Newsom, Governor of California, et. al., the nation’s highest court was petitioned over a case involving the state’s attempt to limit “home-based religious worship, including Bible studies and prayer meetings.”
SCOTUS summarily dismissed the case without a hearing and ruled in favor of the petitioners, which were represented by The Center for American Liberty, a law firm that defends the constitutional rights of American citizens. The main themes outlined in the Supreme Court’s decision overturning the Ninth Circuit ruling bear repeating.
“First, government regulations are not neutral and generally applicable, and therefore trigger strict scrutiny under the Free Exercise Clause, whenever they treat any comparable secular activity more favorably than religious exercise,” the Per Curiam opinion read.
“Second, whether two activities are comparable for purposes of the Free Exercise Clause must be judged against the asserted government interest that justifies the regulation at issue,” it went on.
“Third, the government has the burden to establish that the challenged law satisfies strict scrutiny,” it continued.
“Fourth, even if the government withdraws or modifies a COVID restriction in the course of litigation, that does not necessarily moot the case,” it added.
“This is the fifth time the Court has summarily rejected the Ninth Circuit’s analysis of California’s COVID restrictions on religious exercise,” the court said. It listed Harvest Rock Church v. Newsom, South Bay, Gish v. Newsom, and Gateway City as prior cases.
“It is unsurprising that such litigants are entitled to relief,” the Supreme Court opinion added.
California Governor Newsom’s unlawful lockdown orders have been repeatedly battered in the courts.
In a California court in November, a judge stated clearly that Newsom had overstepped his authority with executive decrees on the 2020 election (the California legislature eventually made several aspects of these decrees legal).
Sutter County Superior Court Judge Sarah Heckman issued an injunction that said the governor could not issue executive action that “changes existing statutory law or makes new statutory law or legislative policy.” Essentially, Judge Heckman reminded Newsom of the basic job description for a sitting governor.
The emergency powers granted to the governor by the legislature under the Emeregency Services Act also cannot grant the executive the authority to make laws. It can grant the authority “to suspend certain statutes, not to amend any statutes or create new ones,” Judge Heckman noted.
In December, the Supreme Court had also ruled against Newsom’s ban on indoor religious services with no noted dissents. It was a ruling similar to an earlier November decision against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. In February, the court found Governor Newsom’s order on indoor religious services outright unconstitutional.
It looks like the Supreme Court is as sick of seeing California Governor Newsom’s cases as the citizens are of seeing the governor. No wonder the Biden administration is looking into court-packing.