Court Battles

Supreme Court justice denies Colorado churches’ challenge to lockdown authority

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch on Tuesday rejected a challenge by two Colorado churches to a law that provided the basis for the state’s coronavirus restrictions.

Gorsuch, who handles emergency applications from Colorado and the surrounding region, denied the request in an unsigned order without referring the matter to the rest of the court, as is typical in controversial cases.

The challengers’ unsuccessful bid took aim at the Colorado Disaster Emergency Act (CDEA), which authorizes the governor to respond to pandemics as well as a variety of other disasters, including droughts, floods and fires.

Although Colorado has dropped virtually all relevant restrictions on houses of worship, the two churches argued in their May petition that the CDEA “remains a future threat” capable of discriminating against religious exercise.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) had urged Gorsuch last month to reject the request. In a court filing, attorneys for the governor claimed the case was moot because “Colorado removed or exempted houses of worship from all of the challenged limitations” and warned of dire consequences if the state’s disaster responses were hamstrung.

“The Colorado Disaster Act creates the legal mechanism for the state to respond to a broad range of disaster-emergencies, such as wildfires, floods, earthquakes, drought, and infestation,” the brief stated. “Invalidating the Act would cause severe hardship to the state.”

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 lockdowns Jared Polis Neil Gorsuch

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