SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — In the wake of a late night U.S. Supreme Court decision, San Jose Catholic Bishop Oscar Cantú Saturday told the parishes under his guidance they were free to hold limited capacity indoor services this weekend.
On Friday night, a divided High Court lifted the state ban on indoor religious services, but left in place COVID-19 restrictions on the number of parishioners allowed to attend and as well as a prohibition on singing and chanting.READ MORE: COVID: Youth, Adult Multi-Team Sports Resumes In Alameda Co., City Of Berkeley
In all, the justices penned four separate opinions. On one side of the spectrum, Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch would have granted the churches the full relief they sought, while the three liberal justices — Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor — would have sided with the state.
“Federal courts owe significant deference to politically accountable officials,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, explaining his vote to grant partial relief to the churches.
He added that the state’s determination that no one could safely worship in the “most cavernous cathedral” reflected an “insufficient appreciation” for the interests at stake. “Deference, though broad, has its limits,” Roberts said.
Writing passionately for the liberals, Kagan said that the “justices on this Court are not scientists, nor do we know much about public health policy.”READ MORE: UPDATE: Supreme Court Orders Santa Clara County To Allow Indoor Church Services
She said that the majority had displaced the judgments of experts about “how to respond to a raging pandemic” and weakened California’s restrictions on public gatherings. She said that “California’s choices make good sense” and that the state is “desperately trying to slow the spread of a deadly disease.”
On Saturday, Bishop Cantú said he was pleased with the decision but supported the safety procedures needed to slow the spread of the virus.
“I am pleased with last night’s Supreme Court Decision affirming the fundamental right to indoor worship in the United States,” the bishop wrote in an email. “Catholic Churches have been worshipping indoors across our country for many months, and there has been minimal COVID transmission at their religious services due to parishes following stringent health and safety protocols pursuant to State and County guidelines.”
“Each of our parishes may resume indoor religious services today at 25% of capacity, but only when each can do so safely,” he continued. “While we will now be able to gather for indoor religious services, it is vital to appreciate that things will not immediately “go back to normal” as the COVID-19 still poses serious risks of infection, especially for the most vulnerable.”MORE NEWS: COVID Reopening: Movie Theaters Open Doors In Red-Tier San Mateo, Marin Counties
“Our parishes will continue to abide by State and County public health orders following capacity and singing restrictions, mandated cleaning protocols, social distancing, and face-covering guidelines.”