John Roberts’ Latest Deciding Vote Spurs Wrath of Conservatives

July 27, 2020by Ros Krasny, Bloomberg News (TNS)
Chief Justice John Roberts arrives for the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The latest Supreme Court vote cast by Chief Justice John Roberts, rejecting an effort by a Nevada church to ease limits on attendance at its services during the coronavirus pandemic, was condemned by conservative lawmakers.

Roberts was the decider late Friday, joining the court’s liberals in a 5-4 vote against Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley, a Reno-area church that said the state was discriminating by imposing stricter requirements on church services than on the state’s casinos.

“John Roberts has abandoned his oath,” Sen. Ted Cruz, Republican from Texas, said in a tweet. “Maybe Nevada churches should set up craps tables? Then they could open?”

Cruz’s comment helped get “John Roberts” trending on Twitter.

Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, also piled on, wondering “what happened to that judge?” and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, a former Republican Congressman, called it “a sad day.”

President Donald Trump hasn’t commented directly on the ruling but retweeted a message about it from a journalist at a conservative news outlet.

Churches and other places of worship in Nevada currently have a 50-person limit on attendance at services. Other businesses, like restaurants and casinos, can operate at half of their fire-code capacity limits, which can be much higher than 50, with appropriate social distancing.

Other large gatherings, like movie theaters and concerts, are subject to similar or tighter restrictions than churches, Nevada officials have said. The rules are an attempt to control the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Roberts didn’t explain Friday’s vote, the court’s latest refusal to exempt religious services from COVID-related crowd-size limitations imposed by state officials. Justices in May refused to block restrictions in separate cases involving California and Illinois.

Limits “should not be subject to second-guessing by an unelected federal judiciary, which lacks the background, competence, and expertise to assess public health and is not accountable to the people,” Roberts wrote in the California case.

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©2020 Bloomberg News

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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