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Supreme Court Sides with Colorado Church, Rejects State Restrictions on Religious Gatherings

12-15-2020
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A Colorado church is celebrating after the Supreme Court ruled in their favor on Tuesday following a lawsuit against Democratic Gov. Jared Polis over restrictions on attendance during religious gatherings. 

High Plains Harvest Church in Ault had challenged the governor and Colorado public health officials after they restricted church gatherings earlier this year, reducing occupancy to 50 people.

The ruling came even though Colorado had backtracked on its restrictions in response to the Supreme Court telling Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) in November to stop discriminating against religious groups when it comes to COVID-19 restrictions. 

Justices Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor dissented from the court's order. Kagan contends that since the COVID-related rules were no longer effective - given the high court's November ruling - "there is no reason to think Colorado will reverse course." 

High Plains Harvest Church argued that the state placed stricter limitations on churches than for businesses. The church's attorney Barry Arrington noted that houses of worship were being forced to follow a separate set of rules.  

"Today in Colorado it is perfectly legal for hundreds of shoppers to pack themselves cheek by jowl into a Lowes or other big box store or patronize any one of the thousands of other retail establishments that are not subject to draconian numerical limits," Arrington wrote, according to CNBC.

"But if 51 people were to meet to worship God in a small rural church in Ault, Colorado, they would do so at the risk of being fined and imprisoned," he added.

Additionally, the Department of Justice filed a statement of interest earlier this year supporting religious freedom for High Plains Harvest Church and its pastor. 

"Especially during a crisis like this, the ability of people of faith to be able to exercise their religion is essential," said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division. "Colorado has offered no good reason for not trusting congregants who promise to use care in worship the same way it trusts diners inside a restaurant, or accountants, realtors or lawyers to do the same. The U.S. Department of Justice will continue to take action if states and localities infringe on the free exercise of religion or other civil liberties."  

CBN News reached out to High Plains Harvest Church for a comment but did not receive a response at the time of publication.

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