“The First Amendment does not permit bureaucrats or judges to ‘subject’ religious beliefs ‘to verification,'” Gorsuch wrote in his dissent released Tuesday. “About this, the Court has spoken plainly and consistently for many years.”
At issue was the court’s decision in Trustees of the New Life in Christ Church v. City of Fredericksburg, Virginia, which centered on the city’s decision to deny a Presbyterian church in Fredericksburg a tax exemption for housing that was being used by the church’s campus ministers.
The city argued that the church misunderstood its own religious doctrine, citing the Book of Church Order of the Presbyterian Church in America to point out that the youth ministers were not ordained.
But the church countered that the couple were subordinate ministers who had the task of outreach to a certain group, which they argued should still qualify for the tax exemption.
The New Life in Christ Church argued their case all the way up to the nation’s highest court, with the justices declining to hear the case that sought to overturn the ruling of a Virginia state court.
But Gorsuch vehemently disagreed with the decision, arguing the Constitution protects religious institutions from being manipulated by government officials.
“En este país, we would not subscribe to the ‘arrogant pretension’ that secular officials may serve as ‘competent Judge[s] of Religious truth,'” Gorsuch wrote.
The justice concluded by expressing his hope that similar cases do not spread across the country, arguing that the court should have taken the opportunity to rule on the issue now.
“This case may be a small one, and one can hope that the error here is so obvious it is unlikely to be repeated anytime soon,” Gorsuch wrote. “But I would correct it. Bureaucratic efforts to ‘subject’ religious beliefs to “verification” have no place in a free country.”