Calvary Chapel case at Supreme Court - should they have won?

Coronavirus-related, but doesn’t belong in Quarantine Zone - more of a constitutional debate:

Just two days ago, a church in Nevada saw a case decided before the Supreme Court: In a nutshell, Nevada regulations restricted churches to no more than 50 people (regardless of how large the church’s size capacity may be,) while allowing 50 percent occupancy for other institutions such as casinos. This promptly led to claims of discrimination and a double standard.

An article at Vox (normally a progressive-leaning publication) takes a sympathetic view of the church, arguing that they had a very strong legal argument going for them.

This Nevada legal order led to a SCOTUS challenge because, as Kavanaugh wrote, this means that a casino with a capacity for 500 occupants can let in as many as 250, while a church with identical size capacity could only let in fifty, a far lower percentage.

IANACL (I am not a Constitutional lawyer) but it seems to me that from a virus standpoint this is very inconsistent; the coronavirus doesn’t discriminate in infecting victims based off of whether they are in a church or casino; a victim is a victim. So to allow a far higher percentage of potential virus-spreading occupants into an indoor environment like a casino, but not in a church, is contradictory.

That being said…I can also understand the view that “We goofed up by allowing casinos to have 50% occupancy, but we shouldn’t screw things up further by allowing churches to do the same too, because two wrongs don’t make a right. We therefore have no choice but to apply an unfair double standard, because lives are at stake.” Does that sound like the actual reasoning behind the decision? (The Court ruled 5-4 against the church.)

There’s another thread on this subject

I haven’t studied the SC case, but if you look at the Guv’s guidelines (cited in that thread) it’s pretty clear that the church is being grouped in with social gatherings, rather than businesses.
So comparing churches to bowling alleys in this case is comparing apples and oranges.

Whoops, I did not see another thread…

It’s OK, the topic is actually a little different.

I do think it’s bad policy - a craps table is likely as social as church is, and bad policy that negatively affects churches*. On the other hand, I don’t think negatively affecting churches was the intent. Classifying churches as social gatherings seems reasonable, and so does regulating social gatherings differently than businesses. I know that intent sometimes matters, I remember the constitutionality of Trump’s travel ban on the middle east hinged on whether he intended it as a muslim travel ban. I would not have thought that religion would be one that could be infringed on based on intent, but the muslim travel ban hinging on intent would be evidence of that.

  • I will say that I think it’s bad policy that should be fixed by letting less people in casinos rather than more in church

The church as social gathering makes a whole lot of sense - there is also a fear, I’d imagine that folks at a church may be more likely to violate social distancing than at a business like a casino.

The Supreme Court only denied the preliminary injunction, and they did so without comment. They did not rule on the merits of the case.