SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) – California public health officials announced Monday that COVID-19 capacity limits on houses of worship have been lifted, following last week’s Supreme Court decision.
“In response to recent judicial rulings, effective immediately, location and capacity limits on places of worship are not mandatory but are strongly recommended,” said a statement posted on the state’s COVID-19 website on Monday. “The linked guidance is in the process of being updated. All other restrictions in the guidance remain in place.”READ MORE: Project Home: Federal Court Strikes Down CDC Eviction Moratorium; What Does It Mean For Bay Area Renters?
Under the updated guidance, houses of worship in Purple Tier counties are “strongly discouraged” to hold indoor activities and are recommended at a 25% capacity limit. Capacity limits of 25% are being urged in Red Tier counties, while 50% is being urged in Orange Tier and Yellow Tier counties.
The change comes after the court’s conservatives sided with a Bible study group in Santa Clara County that challenged the state’s limits on indoor home gatherings to three households. In a 5-4 decision handed down on Friday, the court said that such restrictions couldn’t be enforced on home-based religious gatherings such as Bible studies and prayer meetings.
Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court’s liberal justices in saying the limits should have remained in place for the time being.READ MORE: COVID Recovery: Bay Area Restaurants Struggle To Hire Staff Ahead Of Likely Big Mother's Day Weekend
“California treats some comparable secular activities more favorably than at-home religious exercise, permitting hair salons, retail stores, personal care services, movie theaters, private suites at sporting events and concerts, and indoor restaurants to bring together more than three households at a time,” said the unsigned order from the court’s conservative justices.
In a dissent from the court’s liberal justices, Justice Elena Kagan said the majority’s decision was hurting state officials’ ability to address a public health emergency.
“California limits religious gatherings in homes to three households. If the State also limits all secular gatherings in homes to three households, it has complied with the First Amendment. And the State does exactly that: It has adopted a blanket restriction on at-home gatherings of all kinds, religious and secular alike. California need not … treat at-home religious gatherings the same as hardware stores and hair salons,” Kagan wrote.MORE NEWS: Fire Crews Contain 15-Acre Vegetation Fire In Discovery Bay; Fireworks Suspected
The state has previously announced that indoor gatherings, including concerts and sporting events, would be allowed with capacity restrictions starting Thursday, amid an ongoing drop in COVID-19 cases.