- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 4, 2020

Amid all the protests-slash-thuggery in the streets of recent days over the police killing of a black man, George Floyd, came this 5-4 determination from the U.S. Supreme Court: California’s far-left governor, Gavin Newsom, was quite right in limiting the number of people who could attend church based on concerns over the coronavirus.

Thanks be the liberals on the court for that egregious ruling. Thanks be the liberals and the mental gymnastics of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. who conveniently forgot churches aren’t just another Walmart.

Churches are protected by the First Amendment.

Religious freedom, not retail freedom, was the core reason for the founding of this nation.

Regardless, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, joined by Roberts, said that Newsom’s executive order limiting a San Diego-area Pentecostal church’s planned Pentecost services for 100 people or 25% of occupancy was fine and dandy, along the lines of what the government ordered for other businesses and places of gathering.

That’s to be expected from the leftists on the court.

But Roberts had a chance to make a stand for America’s founding, for America’s notions of limited government, for the concept of rights in this country coming from God, not government — and he blew it. Big time.

“Although California’s guidelines place restrictions on places of worship, those restrictions appear consistent with the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment,” Roberts wrote. “Similar or more severe restrictions apply to comparable secular gatherings, including lectures, concerts, movie showings, spectator sports and theatrical performances where large groups of people gather in close proximity for extended periods of time.”

That’s nice.

But to make that statement means to believe that concerts, movie theaters, lectures are one and the same as churches and places of religious worship.

And they’re not.

In America, saying so is tantamount to tortured logic.

History makes clear this country came first and foremost as a result of godly men and women seeking a permanent solution to religious persecution — to religious persecution from the hands of government.

That means the order of priorities is church first; government second. Or, put another way: God first — God-given rights to individuals, first; government-granted, second. If at all. One need only look to the First Amendment and the Ninth Amendment to underscore.

Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh in his dissent argued plainly that the COVID-19 restrictions on the church were clear violations of the Constitution.

“In his view,” SCOTUSblog.com wrote, “the businesses that are not subject to the restrictions — which, he noted, include malls, pet groomers, hair salons and marijuana dispensaries — are comparable to gatherings at houses of worship, and California [did not] show a good reason for treating houses of worship differently.”

Good points, all. Good points that blow holes in the Roberts’ line of reasoning of churches being allowed the same-same as other same-same businesses.

Kavanaugh also noted the church “would suffer irreparable harm from not being able to hold services on Pentecost Sunday in a way that comparable secular businesses and persons can conduct their activities.”

He was joined in the dissent by Justice Neil M. Gorsuch and Justice Clarence Thomas. Justice Samuel Alito voted to dissent, but did not join Kavanaugh’s opinion.

Roberts, post-opinion, was credited by many in the media for issuing what was billed as a common-sense ruling that took into consideration the government’s job to protect citizens; the unknown nature of the coronavirus and the full extent of its dangers; and the belief that Newsom put a great deal of thought into his executive order, going above and beyond to treat churches in a way that was fair — that was like the treatment given all the other businesses in the state.

Kavanaugh was accused of judicial activism.

But how can it be judicial activism to uphold the very tenet of America’s founding and of the driving force behind America’s very system of governance?

Roberts was wrong; Kavanaugh was right.

We’re either a nation where religious freedom rules — or a nation where government rules.

Roberts, with his bizarre, twisted jumps over historical truths and acrobatic hops over the Constitution, specifically the First and Ninth amendments, made clear: In his America, government rules.

And this is all the more reason to keep Democrats far away from the White House and Senate. The next Supreme Court seat must be filled with another Kavanaugh, not a Roberts.

• 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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