Andrew Cuomo Calls Supreme Court’s Church Lockdown Ruling ‘Irrelevant’
Andrew Cuomo Calls Supreme Court’s Church Lockdown Ruling ‘Irrelevant’
Supreme Court Blocks New York's Coronavirus Limits On Houses of Worship : Coronavirus Updates
27 November, 2020, 08:51
The case stemmed from an October 6 decision by Cuomo, a Democrat, to shut down non-essential businesses in targeted areas where infections have spiked, including some neighborhoods in Brooklyn.
Chief Justice John Roberts dissented, voting alongside the three liberal judges on the court. Cuomo, whose office didn't respond to a request for comment, had made that argument last week in a court filing. "I think this was really just an opportunity for the court to express its philosophy and politics".
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Brooklyn Diocese said that the ruling is relevant far beyond the boundaries of the New York City region.
The system limits activities where the virus was spreading, with the most restrictive measures implemented in "red" zones that have the highest risk of infection followed by "orange" and "yellow".
The justices acted on an emergency basis, temporarily barring NY from enforcing the restrictions against the groups while their lawsuits continue.
The majority added the rules "single out houses of worship for especially harsh treatment" by imposing tighter restrictions on them than on, for example, acupuncture facilities and garages.
"Members of this court are not public health experts, and we should respect the judgment of those with special expertise and responsibility in this area".
"Even in a pandemic, the Constitution can not be put away and forgotten", read the opinion, which sided with a petition brought forth by NY religious organizations. "The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment's guarantee of religious liberty", the opinion said. The Court's unsigned per curiam opinion called the plaintiffs' need for relief "essential", and noted that the religious groups bringing suit have a strong likelihood of success on the merits.
There are now several areas statewide designated orange zones but no red zones, according to the state's website that tracks areas designated hot spots.
"The Governor might reinstate the restrictions".
The groups sued to challenge attendance limits at houses of worship in areas designated red and orange zones, where NY had capped attendance at 10 and 25 people, respectively.
Legal analyst Florina Altshiler says the harm of the restriction was the loss of first amendment freedom of religion.
The diocese argued it had previously operated safely by capping attendance at 25 percent of a building´s capacity and taking other measures.
She did not write a separate opinion in the two NY cases, but backed the majority vote for the opinion.
"The applicants point out that the State might reimpose the red or orange zone restrictions in the future".
Two lower courts had sided with NY in allowing the restrictions on houses of worship to stand.
NY has categorised areas where coronavirus infections are increasing in severity as yellow, orange or red.
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