U.S. Vice President Mike Pence this week urged Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) to “reconsider” his coronavirus restrictions on religious gatherings because they “openly discriminate against people of faith.”
In a letter sent to the Nevada governor on Tuesday, Pence “raised a concern” about Sisolak’s “subjective decision to disproportionately apply mitigation efforts in ways that appear to openly discriminate against people of faith,” adding:
While I am pleased you are interested in protecting entertainment and tourism jobs, your decision to prioritize blackjack and slot machines over places of worship is offensive to millions of Americans. I hope you will reconsider and extend the same courtesy to churches, synagogues, and mosques that you have offered to casinos across the state.
The vice president expressed gratitude towards the people of Nevada for their “sacrifices” throughout the ongoing Chinese virus pandemic as he touted the Trump administration’s “unprecedented Federal response that has assisted Nevada with medical supplies, personal protective equipment, and therapeutics.”
The Nevada governor has indicated that he may soon ease the coronavirus restrictions on worship places following a Supreme Court decision in July in favor of the state’s cap on religious gatherings at 50 people.
However, he has not provided a timeline for lifting the restrictions or any specific metrics necessary to ease the curbs.
A rural church — Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley — brought the case to the Supreme Court, asserting that Sisolak’s coronavirus curbs limiting religious gatherings at 50 people was unconstitutional.
Gov. Sisolak’s June 4 directive allowing secular businesses like casinos and restaurants to reopen at 50 percent of capacity while maintaining attendance caps for church services “simply turns the First Amendment on its head,” lawyers for the church wrote in the request to the Supreme Court for an emergency injunction, the Las Vegas Sun reported in July.
“The Free Exercise Clause protects the exercise of religion. No constitutional provision protects the right to gamble at casinos, eat at restaurants, or frolic at indoor amusement parks,” the lawyers added.
Nevertheless, the high court denied the appeal by the church to allow more worshippers to attend in-person services during the pandemic.
As part of Sisolak’s coronavirus restrictions, Nevada has capped all religious gatherings at 50 people, no matter the size of the building.
Meanwhile, the state allows secular businesses, including casinos, restaurants, movie theaters, gyms, hair salons, bowling alleys, and water parks, to operate at up to 50 percent capacity, granting access to hundreds of patrons at the same time.