Kelly Shackelford, the president of First Liberty Institute, told the “Todd Starnes Radio Show” on Monday that the recent decision by Chief Justice John Roberts to join the liberals on the Supreme Court to deny a California church’s appeal to reopen could have a lasting negative effect on freedom of religion in the U.S.
Roberts, who has a record of siding in favor of religious institutions in similar cases, wrote in an opinion Friday that politicians’ decisions “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.”
He continued, according to Politico, “The precise question of when restrictions on particular social activities should be lifted during the pandemic is a dynamic and fact-intensive matter subject to reasonable disagreement.”
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Shackelford called Roberts’ opinion “horrible.” He said, “No, that is your job, to question policymakers.”
“You know what this is going to be read as,” Shackleford said. “It’s going to be anytime you want to declare an emergency, as a government official, you declare your emergency and there goes fundamental First Amendment rights, and that’s not something we can have.”
Todd Starnes, the host of the radio show, credited Shackleford and First Liberty Institute for being selective with the cases they bring before the high court. Shackleford said religious liberty amid the coronavirus was on the move in the country with victories in Louisville and Illinois. He said churches led the way in much of the country’s reopening because once there were legal victories there, small businesses were not far behind.
Shackelford said the High Court’s three other Republican-appointed members joined Justice Brett Kavanaugh who said the church guidelines “indisputably discriminates against religion.”
“The Church would suffer irreparable harm from not being able to hold services on Pentacost Sunday in a way that comparable secular businesses and persons can conduct their activities,” he wrote. “The state cannot assume the worst when people go to worship but assume the best when people go to work or go about the rest of their daily lives in permitted social settings.”
Shackelford said the court’s ruling will make it more difficult for churches in California to fight Gov. Gavin Newsom’s orders, but said the one positive out of the state is the enormous amount of people showing up for protests in Sacramento to protest.
“I think that is beginning to push Gov. Newsom,” he said. “They just need to pushing.”