By Ariane de Vogue, CNN Supreme Court Reporter
A church in Maine is asking the Supreme Court to block the state from enforcing or reinstating any Covid-related restrictions that the house of worship says would violate its religious liberty rights under the Constitution.
The petition highlights the emerging Delta variant, and the church’s fear that it will trigger new statewide restrictions. It is likely to restart disputes between states trying to fight Covid and houses of worship who say the restrictions violate religious liberty rights. Such disputes had simmered down at the high court after the vaccine was made widely available.
“The so-called Delta variant of the coronavirus and the threat of an unconstitutionally-motivated restriction,” hangs over the Calvary Chapel of Bangor, Maine, “like a sword of Damocles,” its lawyers argued in the petition.
At least 10 times during pandemic, the Supreme Court has entertained similar requests. Since the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the justices have often sided with houses of worship in similar disputes.
In the petition, Calvary Chapel’s lawyers object to restrictions put forward by Democratic Gov. Janet Mills that they say are discriminatory and unconstitutional. The lawyers also argued that the church remains “under constant threat” that the governor will reinstate restrictions that have already been lifted because of the Delta variant.
“Although Gov. Mills suspended the worst of her unconstitutional orders on May 24, 2021, her own public health officials’ statements are raising concerns over the Delta variant of the coronavirus and its potential to impact Maine,” the lawyers wrote.
The justices are likely to ask the state for its response sometime next week.
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