The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington at sunset. REUTERS/Erin Scott

The Supreme Court issued a ruling late Friday that California cannot restrict religious gatherings that take place in private homes despite the risk of COVID-19 infection.

The court issued the 5-4 order near midnight in a case led by Ritesh Tandon, a Republican Congressional candidate, regarding a Bible study group in Santa Clara County.

“California treats some comparable secular activities more favorably than at-home religious exercise, permitting hair salons, retail stores, personal care services, movie theaters, private suites at sporting events and concerts, and indoor restaurants to bring together more than three households at a time,” the court said said in an unsigned order.

The restrictions are due to end on April 15, but the court said “officials with a track record of ‘moving the goalposts’ retain authority to reinstate those heightened restrictions at any time.”

Justice Elena Kagan argued in a dissenting option that since California “also limits all secular gatherings in homes to three households, it has complied with the First Amendment.”

The court’s conservative majority has struck down a number of restrictions on religious gatherings during the pandemic.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.