Nevada churches denied the same capacity allowances given to casinos

Let’s get this straight, according to a 5-4 one-sentence U.S. Supreme Court ruling Friday, if a Nevada church were to hold a bingo night in its 500-seat auditorium, under Gov. Steve Sisolak’s diktat, 250 people could attend, since the governor’s orders allow 50 percent capacity for casinos, but, if someone were to say a prayer, 200 would have to leave, since the governor says only 50 people may attend church services.

Four justices thought that a little bit duplicitous.

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in his dissent:

This is a simple case. Under the Governor’s edict, a 10-screen “multiplex” may host 500 moviegoers at any time. A casino, too, may cater to hundreds at once, with perhaps six people huddled at each craps table here and a similar number gathered around every roulette wheel there. Large numbers and close quarters are fine in such places. But churches, synagogues, and mosques are banned from admitting more than 50 worshippers — no matter how large the building, how distant the individuals, how many wear face masks, no matter the precautions at all. In Nevada, it seems, it is better to be in entertainment than religion. Maybe that is nothing new. But the First Amendment prohibits such obvious discrimination against the exercise of religion. The world we inhabit today, with a pandemic upon us, poses unusual challenges. But there is no world in which the Constitution permits Nevada to favor Caesars Palace over Calvary Chapel.

Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh, was equally incensed at the disparate treatment, writing:

The Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion. 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. But the Governor of Nevada apparently has different priorities. Claiming virtually unbounded power to restrict constitutional rights during the COVID–19 pandemic, he has issued a directive that severely limits attendance at religious services. A church, synagogue, or mosque, regardless of its size, may not admit more than 50 persons, but casinos and certain other favored facilities may admit 50% of their maximum occupancy — and in the case of gigantic Las Vegas casinos, this means that thousands of patrons are allowed.

That Nevada would discriminate in favor of the powerful gaming industry and its employees may not come as a surprise, but this Court’s willingness to allow such discrimination is disappointing. We have a duty to defend the Constitution, and even a public health emergency does not absolve us of that responsibility.

The suit was brought by Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley, a church in Lyon County east of Reno. It wanted to conduct services for 90 congregants, about 50 percent of its fire-code capacity. According to Alito, it planned to ask attendees to adhere to proper social distancing of six feet separation, would cut the length of services in half, prohibit items being passed among the congregation, guide congregants to designated doorways along one-way paths, and to leave time between services so the church could be sanitized.

Do casinos require as much?

Justice Kavanaugh wrote in a separate dissent:

But COVID–19 is not a blank check for a State to discriminate against religious people, religious organizations, and religious services. There are certain constitutional red lines that a State may not cross even in a crisis. Those red lines include racial discrimination, religious discrimination, and content-based suppression of speech. This Court’s history is littered with unfortunate examples of overly broad judicial deference to the government when the government has invoked emergency powers and asserted crisis circumstances to override equal-treatment and free-speech principles. The court of history has rejected those jurisprudential mistakes and cautions us against an unduly deferential judicial approach, especially when questions of racial discrimination, religious discrimination, or free speech are at stake.

But Chief Justice John Roberts — joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — denied the church’s appeal without deigning to comment on such a significant constitutional matter.

Dayton Courier file photo

14 comments on “Nevada churches denied the same capacity allowances given to casinos

  1. Bill says:

    Our Governor has sometimes had a record, as some one put it, of “seldom being right but never in doubt”. This is another example?

    What rational basis can be argued for his applying different standards between gaming and religious gatherings? The media should ask him to explain.

    The SCOTUS majority has again abandoned any pretext of reasoned concern for certain portions of our protected liberties enumerated in our Constitution.

    It may be 2020 but 1984 has arrived.

  2. Rincon says:

    Two major differences between churches and casinos in Nevada: 1) Mostly Nevadans would contract COVID 19 in churches, while most of those exposed in casinos would soon go back home to spread the disease around the other 49 states. 2) Casinos pay taxes, churches don’t.

    I’m not sure regarding the legal issues, but this is yet another example of lockdown stupidity. Here in Illinois, movie theaters are still shut down, even though people who aren’t talking, coughing, or sneezing emit almost no viral particles, and at most movie showings, separating family units by 6 feet or more is eminently feasible. In “essential” retail establishments though, it was the wild west, with great crowds, and no masks or distancing at all. By now though, masks are finally required, and people are doing a reasonably good job of distancing, except for the Trump supporters. Curiously, that group seemed to have no problem with citizens being tossed out of their jobs willy nilly, but objected violently when told to wear masks.

  3. Athos says:

    As usual, convenient omissions By Rin Tin Tin. Orange man bad now wears a mask Rinny. So how much longer can it be until nobody needs to wear a mask? And I noticed not a lot of social distancing (but plenty of mask wearing!) with all those mostly peaceful riots going on.

    I truly wish John Roberts would grow a pair! He’s got four sane allies to bolster him up. But no!! RBG needs to retire and give the Donald one more good conservative pick. Then whatever material are using to blackmail Roberts won’t matter.

    And who doubts the number one goal Of anarchist is the destruction of the church??

  4. What me worry? says:

    Maybe a too simple work around given this decision, but what if a church holds bingo games as part of its scheduled services? Gaming is part of the service- all elements met.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Go into your closets and pray and don’t be like the heathens.

    Or at least that’s what Jesus said.

    Guess some people, they call themselves Christians sometimes when they want a tax break, or some freedom not to do something societies do, don’t want to listen to the guy they say they’re all about.

    Weird.

  6. Bill says:

    Good idea Citizen “Outside” but then Gaming Control would bust them for no gaming license. The dereliction of the Court and Roberts was in the fact that they refused to even hear the Dayton Church emergency petition. Perhaps, just perhaps, they may want a case to wind its way up through the Circuits before they hear it. This particular case is simply that they will not hear this issue at this time. Disappointing but not surprising.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Matthew 6:6

    But you, when you pray, enter into your closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father which is in secret; and your Father which sees in secret shall reward you openly.

    5And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. Truly I tell you, they already have their full reward. 6But when you pray, go into your inner room, shut your door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. And your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not babble on like pagans, for they think that by their many words they will be heard.…

  8. Steve says:

    More evidence the Devil fell from Heaven, he and all his disciples know the verse and the many ways to twist it, better than anyone.

  9. Rincon says:

    “And who doubts the number one goal Of anarchist is the destruction of the church??”

    I believe that’s what the Church of England said about the American revolution.

    As for the orange man wearing the mask, are you trying to imply that the morons who refuse to wear a mask are Biden supporters?

  10. Athos says:

    The church of England, Rinny? You’re citing the church of England during the revolutionary war 245 years ago? Devil don’t sleep does he? Of course you don’t believe in Any of that Devil stuff, do you? That’s just downright silly isn’t it?

    I miss my reference about orange man bad. I’ve noticed that whenever Donald says something the press and the left (but I repeat myself) go the opposite way! If he were to say “ Whatever you do don’t open schools for kids to attend five days a week“ you all will be clamoring to get kids back to school immediately!

  11. […] Source: Nevada churches denied the same capacity allowances given to casinos […]

  12. Rincon says:

    Getting kids back to school should have always been a higher priority than opening casinos, churches, restaurants, and a host of other things. By now, it should have been easy to accomplish. Many other countries have showed us how to do that, but we refuse to adopt their successful policies. Instead, our Democrats want to cut off our nose to spite our face with their extreme measures, while Republicans have done everything possible to neglect the problem entirely. Unfortunately, the rest of the world has had an opportunity to compare the Chinese system with ours, and we have been found wanting. Luckily, there are other democracies that have demonstrated that our foibles aren’t tied to the democratic system itself.

    This is yet another category where pseudopatriots sound ridiculous thumping their chests, saying we’re the greatest country in the world. Certainly, we have not been so in our handling of this pandemic. We do perhaps, hold the honors for the greatest hubris though. Instead of screaming to the world and our countrymen how great we are, we should be quietly striving for greatness with a deep sense of humility and unity.

  13. Bill says:

    I’m not quite sure of what you are trying to say, Rincon?

    Your comment, without further explanation, seemed to be accusatory of our Country, contemptuous of expressions of patriotism, dismissive of any of our efforts to cope with the pandemic and dismissive.

    Certainly hat was not your intent for if it was, that would certainly not demonstrate the humility and unity that you are calling for.

    And by he way, could you explain how China,a closed society, handled the pandemic they started better than we have?

  14. Rincon says:

    Sorry if I gave you the wrong impression. I don’t dismiss patriotism at all, but it bothers me that the same people that wrap themselves in the flag are often the ones who don’t think our government can organize a one car parade, and want to dismember it as much as possible. They obviously don’t love our government, but then get upset when someone else criticizes the results of that same government’s policies (I don’t put you in that category, because you are not rabidly critical of our government).

    Love for country shouldn’t blind one to its deficiencies. We are objectively worse off than the majority of advanced nations in a number of ways. Loving the country means recognizing it and trying to improve it, not ignoring it. With our COVID 19 response, our results in controlling the disease have objectively been in or near the bottom half of other advanced nations, Damage to our economy is not easily assessed at this time, but many nations have avoided the drastic shutdowns that we’ve endured while still controlling the disease far better than we have. I think those are facts that need recognizing.

    I believe one of the greatest obstacles to improving our nation is our being so convinced that we are the greatest, that we refuse to admit it when another nation’s policies have worked better than ours, therefore also refusing to adopt those superior policies.

    China managed to control the pandemic very quickly and effectively, using methods that are objectionable to us. In a perfect world, all of our citizens would have seen the results China achieved and would have united to duplicate China’s efforts voluntarily. Unfortunately, there was no unifying leadership in our case. Even if it had been present, there would always have been outliers who would refuse to sacrifice for the sake of their fellow citizens. Hell, some won’t even be troubled to wear a mask, even though it’s easy and inexpensive, presumably because it only protects other people. Without the necessary coercion, we could not have duplicated China’s results. This though, is probably a cost of freedom that is worth paying.

    Had the virus had a higher degree of transmissibility and mortality though, we, in our free society, would have been in a huge amount of trouble. Hopefully, the Constitution allows wartime powers to achieve control of a worse epidemic if it ever comes our way. Clearly though, at a minimum, the government should have unquestioned power to properly quarantine anyone traveling from an area with a highly transmissible, dangerous disease.

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