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Supreme Court rejects church challenge to Nevada COVID restrictions, White House slams ruling

In strong dissent, Justice Gorsuch writes: ‘In Nevada, it seems, it is better to be in entertainment than religion.'

Published: July 24, 2020 11:07pm

Updated: July 24, 2020 11:27pm

The Supreme Court on Friday rejected a Christian church's plea to ease Nevada's COVID-19 restrictions and allow additional worshipers at Sunday services in a ruling that showcased a sharp divide among the justices.

"The application for injunctive relief presented to JUSTICE KAGAN and by her referred to the Court is denied," the court ruled without further explanation in rejecting an appeal by Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley.

At issue was a Nevada rule that limited church services to 50 people - regardless of the size of the church building -- while allowing other commercial entities like casinos and theaters to have customers up to 50 percent of their building capacity.

Four conservative justices -- Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch -- strongly dissented, arguing the differing standards created unequal protection under the law.

“This is a simple case. Under the Governor’s edict, a 10-screen 'multiplex' may host 500 moviegoers at any time,” Gorsuch wrote. "....In Nevada, it seems, it is better to be in entertainment than religion. Maybe that is nothing new. But the First Amendment prohibits such obvious discrimination against the exercise of religion."

The Trump White House weighed in by siding with the justices, with chief of staff Mark Meadows tweeting "It’s a sad day for our country when the high court supports casinos and not churches. This Supreme Court ruling would be a supreme disappointment to our founding fathers."

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