Justice Samuel Alito wrote a dissent which was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh, while Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote a separate dissent, as did Kavanaugh.
The church argued that Governor Steve Sisolak’s coronavirus regulations unjustly targeted houses of worship compared to businesses such as casinos and restaurants. According to Alliance Defending Freedom, whose attorney’s represent Calvary Chapel, “Sisolak’s rule allows casinos, restaurants, bars, theme parks, and gyms to operate at 50% capacity but restricts churches to gatherings of 50 or fewer people regardless of building size.”
The ecclesial community sought permission for gatherings of about 90 persons, which is 50% of its capacity. It is currently holding three services each Sunday. Its website says face coverings are required and will be supplied in case of need, and ushers are ensuring social distancing.
Sisolak has said that casinos are more closely regulated by the state than are houses of worship, and so pose less of a threat to public health.
Both a district court and the Ninth Circuit had already denied Calvary Chapel’s application for relief from the governor’s regulation.
Gorsuch’s brief dissent observed that “this is a simple case. Under the Governor’s edict, a 10- screen ‘multiplex’ may host 500 moviegoers at any time. A casino, too, may cater to hundreds at once, with perhaps six people huddled at each craps table here and a similar number gathered around every roulette wheel there. Large numbers and close quarters are fine in such places. But churches, synagogues, and mosques are banned from admitting more than 50 worshippers—no matter how large the building, how distant the individuals, how many wear face masks, no matter the precautions at all.”