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Lucy Koh’s Religious-Freedom Misstep

During her nomination hearing Wednesday, Judge Lucy Koh, a district judge for the Northern District of California nominated to the Ninth Circuit, was asked repeated questions by Republican senators about her February ruling in Tandon v. NewsomJudge Koh’s order denied injunctive relief to plaintiffs challenging California COVID restrictions on indoor gatherings that prevented them from conducting Bible studies and prayer meetings at their homes. The state had prohibited private indoor gatherings beyond the immediate households and limited private outdoor gatherings to three households. Koh was satisfied that the law did not violate the plaintiffs’ free-exercise rights because she concluded that it was “neutral and generally applicable,” subjecting it to the deferential rational basis standard of review, and that it would pass an even a stricter standard of review because it advanced compelling government interests in fighting the pandemic…

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