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US Supreme Court asked to halt NV governor’s rules that treat churches worse than casinos

Supreme Court of the United States

RENO, Nev. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a church filed an emergency application with the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday that asks it to immediately halt enforcement of Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak’s unbalanced restrictions on churches as part of the state’s reopening plans during the coronavirus pandemic. 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.

Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley in rural Lyon County is asking the high court to halt the restrictions while its lawsuit moves forward in the lower courts because the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit refused to do so.

“If groups of people can meet in casinos to play the slots, then they can meet in church to worship,” said ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman. “We are asking the Supreme Court to halt a rule that allows the government to play favorites. The government can certainly prioritize public health and safety, but it can’t move businesses and non-religious activities to the front of the line for reopening and push similarly situated churches to the back. That’s unconstitutional.”

On June 4, ADF filed a supplemental brief in federal district court that included video footage of a recently reopened, crowded casino floor where the majority of patrons pictured are not wearing masks or practicing social distancing.

Among the many exceptions to Sisolak’s gathering restrictions, restaurants can resume on-site dining at 50% capacity and gyms and fitness centers can open at 50% capacity. But the governor has refused to allow churches and other places of worship to open their doors to 50 or more people under any circumstance.

Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley wishes to resume in-person worship services that would amount to less than 50% of its building’s capacity and has developed comprehensive social distancing and health and safety protocols to govern those services. It has not been able to proceed with its plans because the governor’s church gathering ban means the church would face criminal and civil penalties.

Jason D. Guinasso, one of more than 3,100 attorneys allied with ADF, is serving as local counsel on behalf of the church in the case, Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley v. Sisolak.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.


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David Cortman
David A. Cortman
Senior Counsel, Vice President of U.S. Litigation
David A. Cortman serves as senior counsel and vice president of U.S. litigation with Alliance Defending Freedom.