UPDATE: Banning Religious Assemblies to Stop the Spread of COVID-19 [Updated June 1, 2020] [open pdf - 668KB]
From the Document: "'On May 29, 2020, the Supreme Court denied two petitions for certiorari appealing lower court decisions on gathering bans in Illinois and California. The U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and Ninth Circuit had both affirmed preliminary rulings in favor of the government, rejecting churches' requests for preliminary injunctions that would have prevented the two states from enforcing their orders limiting mass gatherings. The Supreme Court denied the petition in the Illinois case, noting that the state had issued new guidance providing guidelines for worship services. In the California case, Chief Justice Roberts wrote an opinion concurring in the Court's one-sentence order denying the appeal to explain why he believed the churches were not entitled to an injunction. In particular, he said that California's restrictions on places of worship appeared 'consistent' with the Free Exercise Clause because churches were being treated similarly to comparable secular gatherings. He also emphasized that, under the circumstances, courts likely should not be 'second-guessing' the public health decisions made by state officials. Four Justices would have granted the California churches' petition. Justice Kavanaugh wrote a separate opinion stating that in his view, the California order unconstitutionally discriminated against religious worship by treating worship services worse than comparable secular businesses. There are a number of ongoing court proceedings across the country, and it is possible that another case challenging a gathering ban on First Amendment grounds will reach the Supreme Court.'"
CRS Legal Sidebar, LSB10450
Congressional Research Service: https://crsreports.congress.gov/