U.S. Retail Sales Increased as States Ended Restrictions

Male checking out on Square program at retail store

U.S. retail sales jumped in June, boosted by states widely loosening coronavirus restrictions and businesses returning to full capacity.

Retail sales increased 0.6% and totaled $621.3 billion in June, according to the Department of Commerce report released Wednesday. The monthly increase was driven by general merchandise, including food service, clothing, personal care, electronics and gasoline sales, the report showed.

“Sectors that were buoyed by the pandemic are slowing down a little bit, but not to a degree that I’d be concerned about,” Square economist Felipe Chacon told The Wall Street Journal. “Household finances have been bolstered by a few rounds of stimulus spending, so it bodes pretty well.”

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California Ordered to Pay $2 Million in Legal Fees to Church that Violated Coronavirus Restrictions

Inside of a church with stained glass and low lighting

After a lengthy court battle, the government of the state of California backed down in its efforts to enforce coronavirus restrictions on a church that continued hosting in-person worship services, and has now agreed in a settlement to pay the church’s $2 million worth of legal fees, Breitbart reports.

When the state repeatedly attempted to enforce strict capacity limits, mask mandates, and other “social distancing” requirements on the San Diego-based Pentecostal church, the church’s lawyers filed suit with the United States Supreme Court, winning all three suits. This ultimately led to lawyers on behalf of the state of California agreeing to the settlement, which was approved by a federal judge.

Responding to the settlement, an attorney with the Thomas More Society, a legal group that represents churches facing suppression of their First Amendment rights, pointed out that while businesses such as Costco were limited to 50 percent capacity, while churches were forced to stay as low as 25 percent, and sometimes even lower.

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Christmas Likely to See Similar Restrictions, Walz Says

After prohibiting private gatherings over the Thanksgiving weekend, Gov. Tim Walz said Minnesotans can expect to see “very similar” restrictions around Christmas.

“I went from John Lithgow in Footloose to the Grinch,” Walz said during a Monday press conference when asked if people should start thinking about canceling their Christmas plans.

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Supreme Court Calls New York’s COVID-19 Restrictions ‘Discriminatory,’ Sides with Religious Leaders

The Supreme Court late Wednesday night sided with religious organizations challenging Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s coronavirus restrictions and called the New York Democrat’s measures “discriminatory” in its injunction for emergency relief.

The conservative justices, including Justice Amy Coney Barrett, favored the religion organizations in the 5-4 ruling, while Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal justices. It was the first time Barrett was a deciding factor as the court’s newest justice after replacing the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

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New Mexico Legislator Flees Home After Receiving Threats

A New Mexico state senator said he fled his house after receiving anonymous threatening telephone messages following his criticism of a protest outside the state Capitol against coronavirus restrictions.

State Sen. Jacob Candelaria said Sunday that he received the series of profanity-laced telephone telephone messages after he issued the criticism Saturday night in a TV appearance.

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Andrew Cuomo Threatens to Shut Down Churches, Synagogues, Says ‘Religious Institutions Have Been a Problem’

Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo threatened Monday to close down religious institutions, specifically Jewish synagogues, if they do not follow his coronavirus restrictions.

“We know religious institutions have been a problem,” Cuomo said at a Monday press conference. “We know mass gatherings are the super spreader events. We know there have been mass gatherings going on in concert with religious institutions in these communities for weeks. For weeks.”

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