Tuesday, February 21, 2023

5th Circuit Rejects Pastor's Jurisdictional Theory of Religion Clauses

 In Spell v. Edwards, (5th Cir., Feb. 17, 2023), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a suit brought by a pastor and his church claiming that their First Amendment rights were violated by enforcement against them of COVID orders in the early months of the pandemic that barred their holding church services. The court said in part:

Pastor Spell explicitly waived the argument that defendants’ actions violated his constitutional rights under current free exercise jurisprudence....  Pastor Spell instead advanced an absolute, categorical theory of the Religion Clauses, arguing that church assembly is “beyond the jurisdiction of the government.”... He maintained that, under Everson v. Board of Education of Ewing Township, there is a “jurisdictional limit on intrusion by the state into the church.”  In so doing, he expressly waived other arguments.

Pastor Spell is the master of his case, and he cannot prevail on the theory he advances. Controlling precedent directly contradicts Pastor Spell’s jurisdictional theory of the Religion Clauses.

Unfiltered With Kiran reports on the decision.