“There is no world in which the Constitution permits Nevada to favor Caesars Palace over Calvary Chapel.”

That’s the closing line in Justice Gorsuch’s dissent in CALVARY CHAPEL DAYTON VALLEY v. STEVE SISOLAK, GOVERNOR OF NEVADA. Calvery Chapel had requested a preliminary injuction against an executive order issued by Governor Sisolak that permits many businesses, including movie theaters and casinos, to operate at half capacity—which can mean hundreds of people—but limits churches and other religious operations to only 50. By a 5/4 majority, the Court denied the Chapel’s request, with Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh all dissenting. All the dissenting opinions are good, but Gorsuch’s stands out for its clarity and its concision. Here it is in full:

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. In Nevada, it seems, it is better to be in entertainment than religion. Maybe that is nothing new. But the First Amendment prohibits such obvious discrimination against the exercise of religion. The world we inhabit today, with a pandemic upon us, poses unusual challenges. But there is no world in which the Constitution permits Nevada to favor Caesars Palace over Calvary Chapel.

 I predict that last line is going to get quoted a lot.

Jon Guze / Director of Legal Studies

Jon Guze is the Director of Legal Studies at the John Locke Foundation. Before joining the John Locke Foundation, Jon practiced law in Durham, North Carolina for over twent...

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