Religious Liberty in a Pandemic

Duke Law Journal Online

22 Pages Posted: 24 Jun 2020 Last revised: 7 Jul 2020

Date Written: June 23, 2020


The coronavirus pandemic caused an unprecedented shutdown of the United States. The stay-at-home orders issued by most states typically banned large gatherings of any kind, including religious services. Churches sued, arguing that these bans violated their religious liberty rights by treating worship services more strictly than analogous activities that were not banned, such as shopping at a liquor store or superstore. This short Essay examines these claims, concluding that the constitutionality of the bans turns on the science of how the pathogen spreads, and that the best available scientific evidence supports the mass gathering bans.

Keywords: First Amendment, religion, religious liberty, Free Exercise, Religious Freedom Restoration Act, RFRA, coronavirus, COVID19, COVID-19, exemptions, church, houses of worship, worship

Suggested Citation

Corbin, Caroline Mala, Religious Liberty in a Pandemic (June 23, 2020). Duke Law Journal Online , Available at SSRN: or

Caroline Mala Corbin (Contact Author)

University of Miami School of Law ( email )

1311 Miller Drive
Coral Gables, FL 33146
United States

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