The big story is even bigger than it appears to be at first blush.
Close to midnight on Friday, while rioters used the killing of George Floyd as a pretext to set America aflame, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling that declined to enjoin the states of California and Illinois from restrictions on communal worship imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Most startling was that Chief Justice John Roberts not only joined the court’s four left-leaning justices (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan) in declining to uphold religious liberty. Roberts also wrote a brief opinion explaining his decision.
That opinion is an eye-opener. Roberts accords the right to worship no deference by virtue of its being a fundamental liberty expressly protected by the First Amendment. We are to see it as an activity like any other activity, commercial or social, the pros and cons of which technocrats must weigh in fashioning regulations. The opinion, moreover, champions the power of government officials to dictate to the people who elect them without “second-guessing by an unelected federal judiciary” — exactly the power that the Bill of Rights, and the incorporation jurisprudence by which the court has applied much of it to the states, are meant to deny.