SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday has ordered Santa Clara County to allow indoor church services to resume pending an appeal.
A federal appeals court had earlier this month allowed the county to ban indoor services while the issue makes its way through the courts.
Early Friday evening, the high court decided that those services should be allowed to happen until the case is resolved. The Supreme Court voted 6-3 to permit the South Bay church to hold services Sunday morning despite local public health orders.
Santa Clara County had argued that its ban remained valid because it was part of a broader prohibition on indoor gatherings at both religious and secular establishments.
Justices Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor were the dissenting votes in the decision.
The new decision follows a Feb. 6 order that let indoor worship services resume in most of California at 25% capacity.
“The Ninth Circuit’s failure to grant relief was erroneous. This outcome is clearly dictated by this Court’s decision,” the court’s brief order said, referring to the Feb. 6 order.
Santa Clara County’s current health order allows facilities operate at 20% capacity for purposes other than gatherings.
The five churches suing Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state of California argued the county can’t constitutionally let churches operate facilities at 20% capacity, but then bar those people from worshiping together.
The Supreme Court issued the new order despite the fact that Santa Clara County health officials announced Thursday that they planned to relax COVID restrictions next week as long as COVID case rates in the county continue to fall.