Supreme Court bars coronavirus restrictions at some NY houses of worship

Elias Hubbard
Ноября 26, 2020

In a decision released late Wednesday, the Supreme Court said New York's attendance limit at houses of worship violates the First Amendment.

Gorsuch wrote a concurring opinion which determined that the unfair application of restrictions on churches and synagogues but not "hardware stores, acupuncturists, and liquor stores, bicycle fix shops, certain signage companies, accountants, lawyers, and insurance agents" was a clear violation of the free exercise clause in the First Amendment.

Andrew Cuomo, governor of NY state, had ordered that only up to 10 people could gather at sites of worship in high-risk areas designated "red zones".

NY officials have created a color-coding system to mark what levels they believe the pandemic has affected certain areas.

Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox Jewish organization with synagogues affected by the restrictions, also sued.

In a separate dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said NY actually was giving houses of worship "preferential treatment" relative to comparable secular activities like movies and spectator sports. The justices previously refused to lift restrictions on churches in California and Nevada.

COVID-19 is the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.

It was a very different approach than McConnell had taken four-and-a-half years prior, when he refused to allow the Senate to consider President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, after Justice Antonin Scalia died more than eight months before the 2016 presidential election.

The plaintiffs were likely to prevail on First Amendment ground, the court ruled.

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh joined Barrett in the majority.

"At a minimum, that Amendment prohibits government officials from treating religious exercises worse than comparable secular activities, unless they are pursuing a compelling interest and using the least restrictive means available", he added.

The order marked one of the first consequential actions on the court of President Donald Trump's new appointee, conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who cast a deciding vote in favor of the religious groups.

A Hasidic Jew walks past a closed synagogue in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, one of the five boroughs of New York City, on October 9, 2020.

Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court's three liberals in dissent. And it may well be that such restrictions violate the Free Exercise Clause.

The Court suggested that less restrictive measures could have been used to combat the pandemic, and even went so far as to suggest that a better rule might have been tied to the specific congregation in question. Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan also dissented.

The court's action won't have any immediate impact since the two groups that sued as a result of the restrictions, the Catholic church and Orthodox Jewish synagogues, are no longer subject to them. Cuomo, whose office didn't respond to a request for comment, had made that argument last week in a court filing. 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. "And this Court, if necessary, could then decide the matter in a day or two, perhaps even in a few hours", Breyer wrote.

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