- The Washington Times - Monday, July 27, 2020

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. just joined with the liberal wing of the U.S. Supreme Court to rule, in essence, that casinos and restaurants have more freedom to operate than churches — an astonishing unconstitutional and un-American finding, given the roots of this nation as one conceived in the quest for religious freedom.

It’s a ruling that makes clear Roberts is no friend of believers. Actually, it’s worse than that: It’s a ruling that sets Roberts as an aggressive and hostile enemy to believers — as nothing but a shill for the secular voices in America.

It was his second time in just a few weeks, after all, issuing a ruling that outright shut down churches. In America. In a country founded on principles of freedom to worship.

The most recent case involved Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley, a church located just outside Reno that was denied by state officials from seating more than 50 people for worship services, based on coronavirus concerns. The court challenge came after government officials in Nevada allowed casinos, restaurants, hair salons, gyms, bowling alleys, water parks and other businesses to operate at 50% of capacity, so long as they observed social distancing measures — but refused to allow the church, which has a seating capacity of 200, to host up to 90 people. The church accused Nevada officials of unlawfully violating the First Amendment.

And of course, Nevada officials were guilty.

How much clearer can targeted discrimination get than a case where all businesses in a state are allowed to operate at 50% capacity — except churches?

Roberts didn’t see it that way.

He stood with the four liberal justices and refused Calvary Chapel the same coronavirus treatment as businesses.

He didn’t explain his decision, either.

Why should he? He just issued a similar vote a feww weeks ago when California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, faced court challenge for his executive order limiting a San Diego-area Pentecostal church gathering to 25% of occupancy — a restriction that didn’t apply to other businesses, like marijuana dispensaries. Let the Roberts’ record speak for itself, right?

For shame.

“The Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in a dissent on the Nevada case. “It says nothing about the freedom to play craps or blackjack, to feed tokens into a slot machine, or to engage in any other game of chance.”

It’s one thing for Nevada’s governor to elevate casinos above churches; gambling, after all, is that state’s bread and butter. But the U.S. Supreme Court?

Roberts has a constitutional duty to serve as the gate guard for the founding principles of this nation, the greatest of which is religious freedom.

He’s shown himself as incapable because of his obvious biases. And now churches face the obvious quandary: God or government?

It’s a showdown that will decide the fate of America’s grandest concept, that of rights coming from God, not government. Another justice like Roberts on the court, and this country is toast, that’s for sure.

• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com or on Twitter, @ckchumley. Listen to her podcast “Bold and Blunt” by clicking HERE. And never miss her column; subscribe to her newsletter by clicking HERE.

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