Young Not Stupid: What SCOTUS' Religious Freedom Ruling in California Means for All of Us


The following is the part of a weekly series of commentary articles by Cameron Arcand, founder of the conservative commentary website Young Not Stupid and a contributor to The Western Journal.

The Supreme Court ruled Friday evening that California’s restrictions on private prayer meetings were unconstitutional, and is viewed as a major victory by religious liberty advocates.

A bible study group in Santa Clarita, California, sued Governor Gavin Newsom for banning more than three households to gather in a private home for religious activities, a naive and unenforceable rule from The Golden State.

There are three key takeaways from this ruling to better understand the conflict between lockdowns and civil liberties:

First, the majority opinion highlights the necessity of limiting the scope of government power, even during times of peril.

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The opinion notes that “government regulations are not neutral and generally applicable, and therefore trigger strict scrutiny under the Free Exercise Clause, whenever they treat any comparable secular activity more favorably than religious exercise.

“It is no answer that a State treats some comparable secular businesses or other activities as poorly as or even less favorably than the religious exercise at issue.”

Secondly, restrictions like the ones lifted explain the hesitancy towards guidelines put forth by state and local bodies throughout the pandemic.

When the government unilaterally decides what is essential and what is not, they are carelessly painting with a broad brush. There is no universally accepted definition of “essential,” therefore making it impossible to create a lockdown that will please everybody.

Do you agree with the Supreme Court's ruling?

In California and in other states with tight restrictions, everyone from restaurant owners to pastors kept their doors open in rebellion. By being asked to go beyond what is reasonable for them, the laws were viewed as an infringement as opposed to a sacrifice for public health.

If states desired increased compliance, they needed to prioritize personal responsibility and respect for civil liberties in their strategy.

Lastly, this is a shining example of why conservatives needed Justice Amy Coney Barrett on the court.

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It is not the job of the Supreme Court to execute a political agenda, but the difference in legal interpretations from different justices makes a bold impact on the United States’ political landscape.

Chief Justice John Roberts was appointed by former President George W. Bush as a conservative, but his recent views have hinted that he does not side with the other conservatives serving.

For this case, Roberts did take the side of the minority, but did not join the dissenting opinion either. This is not the first time in recent months that he has not joined the other conservative justices, and likely will not be the last.

As a result of Robert’s change over time, Barrett’s confirmation safely sealed the conservative majority, which should bring people who value religious freedom peace of mind.

Legal disputes have been propelled to the forefront as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, making it clear that there is plenty of gray area with how politicians and public health officials responded to the crisis — and this ruling exemplifies why.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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