religious

On 13 May 2022, the Supreme Court of Louisiana found that the limits on gatherings and the stay-at-home mandates provided for by two executive orders issued by the Governor were unconstitutional as applied to the defendant church.

The latter was issued six misdemeanor citations for violating the above executive orders issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Court highlighted that the orders contained exemptions allowing many secular activities to proceed as normal without limitation, despite that in many of those gatherings the risk of spreading COVID-19 appeared no less prevalent than at a comparable church gathering. It also found that the State had failed to offer any evidence proving otherwise as well as to establish that less restrictive measures could not address the State’s interest in reducing COVID-19’s spread. In light of the above, the Court held that the orders did not survive strict scrutiny under the Free Exercise Clause, which requires that the offensive provisions be narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling government interest. Accordingly, it found that “the disparate treatment violated U.S. Const. amend. I’s guarantees religious liberty” and quashed the bill of information issued against the church pastor for having violated the orders. In so doing, the Louisiana Supreme Court applied the standards developed by the U.S. Supreme Court's similar decisions in Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo (2020) and Tandon v. Newsom (2021).

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