Finally, we’re getting a little direction — and, may I add, a little sanity, too — out of the U.S. Supreme Court over how far the government may go in restricting Constitutional rights during an emergency.
The answer: Not very far.
In a case out of New York, the government attempted to restrict the number of people who may gather for a church service. The rule was completely arbitrary. Depending upon the location and the severity of COVID-19 cases in the area, it could be as little as 10 per service.
Yet the government placed different, and more generous, limits on shops and stores in the same area.
The Catholic Church filed suit and won, thanks in large part to ACB (Amy Coney Barrett) replacing RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsburg).
Said the newly constituted court: “Even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten. The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty.”
With that, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo got his knuckles rapped. This ruling should result in California Gov. Gavin Newsom getting his hand slapped, too. And, no doubt, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak will have to eat his words in his lawsuit with Calvary Chapel in Dayton
In that case, Gov. Sisolak ordered churches to limit services to 50 people, but he let casinos and businesses such as water parks operate at 50 percent capacity — numbers far higher than the 50 limit put on churches. His rule-making had no scientific basis. The Carson City brain trust plucked numbers out of a hat that clearly violated the Constitution.
The Supreme Court’s new direction is the proper course. It comes in the nick of time as the nation is struck by another wave of virus cases. Look, why is this important stuff? Well, you don’t have to go back too far to remember another misguided politician, FDR, who used World War II as an excuse to suspend the constitutional rights of Japanese Americans. We look back now and see that as clearly wrong.
When the pandemic smoke has cleared, we’ll see Sisolak and his “church gathering ban” as clearly wrong, too.
In the spirit of it’s better to be bored than dead, I offer these entertainment ideas during this time of SIP house arrest:
— I caught (for the first time) the 1950 version of the film “Father of the Bride” last week. Stars Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor. Worth the time, I thought. Tracy roamed the Hollywood landscape a bit before my time, but based on that performance I can see why he was a popular star.
— Queen’s Gambit on Netflix is pretty good. A bit slow perhaps, but the storyline of a girl reaching the top of the chess world kept my interest.
— If you’re not watching The Crown on Netflix, you are missing some exceptional television. Season 4 is now on and it features two excellent storylines in Princess Di and Margaret Thatcher.
— And finally, The Undoing on HBO is a good little modern nightmare. It will keep you occupied for a few nights of binge watching. Pro Tip: The plot becomes more interesting with a few sips of Southern Comfort.
ONE MORE THING
Here’s a holiday recipe for you. If anyone gives it a go, let me know. Don’t invite me over. Just let me know.
And with that, I’ll pick up my knitting and let myself out. Avoid soreheads and let’s plow through the holiday season with kindness and joy.
(Sherman R. Frederick is the founder of Battle Born Media, a journalist-based, family-owned company dedicated to the preservation of intensely local community newspapers, such as this one. You can follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/sherm.frederick/. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)