Churches can re-open for worship in California, the US Supreme Court has declared.
In a 6-3 majority verdict, the Court granted an injunction lifting a state-wide ban on indoor religious worship, but permitting a 25% capacity limitation.
The cases were brought by two churches against Governor Gavin Newsom over Covid-19 regulations which prevented them from gathering for worship in their church buildings.
Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch said: “California has openly imposed more stringent regulations on religious institutions than on many businesses.”
He added: “When a State so obviously targets religion for differential treatment, our job becomes that much clearer.”
Justice Gorsuch questioned why California had singled out religion for “worse treatment”, when compared to hairstylists, manicurists, shopping malls and bus terminals.
He said he could find no explanation as to why “the narrower options” California thought adequate in many “secular settings”, such as social distancing requirements, masks and cleaning, were not considered sufficient in places of worship.
Church buildings in Scotland are currently closed for public worship under Covid-19 measures introduced by the Scottish Government.
A group of 27 Scottish church leaders has been granted permission for a full judicial review, which could result in buildings being allowed to re-open.
Congregations are allowed to gather for worship in the rest of the United Kingdom, as long as relevant legal obligations are observed.