SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — Santa Clara County officials ordered churches to keep their doors shuttered for Sunday services despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling saying that such a ban on indoor services was illegal.
The health officials said in a news release that they felt their health order still falls within the Supreme Court ruling.READ MORE: UPDATE: Victim, Suspect Identified In Fatal Oakland Park Shooting in Front of Children
“Indoor gatherings of all types remain prohibited in Santa Clara County,” officials said. “Santa Clara County’s local health orders are structured in a fundamentally different way than the state’s rules that were the subject of last night’s (Friday night) U.S. Supreme Court decision. The county has consistently taken a neutral, across-the-board, risk-based approach to curbing COVID-19 that comports with the requirements of last night’s Supreme Court decision. Therefore, all indoor gatherings remain prohibited at this time due to their risk.”
On Friday night, a divided Supreme 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.
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.READ MORE: COVID: Youth, Adult Multi-Team Sports Can Resume In Alameda Co., Berkeley
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.”
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.”
Hours before the health order was issued, San Jose Catholic Bishop Oscar Cantú told the parishes under his guidance they were free to hold limited capacity indoor services this weekend.
“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: UPDATE: Missing San Francisco Girl Found Safe In Pittsburg With Michigan Runaway
“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.”