In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court nixed Andrew Cuomo’s restrictions on houses of worship. The lawsuit was filed by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Agudath Israel of America who are fed up with the discrimination of Cuomo’s demand that only 10 people or under be allowed to attend church in red zones, and 25 in orange zones. The court ruled that he cannot enforce those numbers at this time.
The Supreme Court Blog reported,
In an unsigned opinion in the Catholic diocese case that also applies to the synagogues’ case, the five-member majority blocked the state from enforcing the attendance limits while the challengers continue to litigate the issue at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit and, if necessary, return to the Supreme Court for a final decision on the merits. The court explained that Cuomo’s order does not appear to be neutral, but instead “single[s] out houses of worship for especially harsh treatment.” For example, although a synagogue or a church in a red zone is limited to 10 people at a service, there are no limits on how many people a nearby “essential” business – which can include acupuncture or a camp ground – can admit.
Because the Cuomo order is not neutral, the court continued, it is subject to the most stringent constitutional test, known as strict scrutiny. It fails that test, the court concluded, because the order is too broad. There is no evidence that these synagogues and churches have contributed to outbreaks, and other, less restrictive rules could have been employed instead – such as basing the maximum attendance on the size of the facility. And if the restrictions are enforced, the court added, they will result in permanent harm to people who cannot attend and for whom a livestream of services is not an adequate substitute.
The Supreme Court nixed New York’s restrictions
“Stemming the spread of COVID-19 is unquestionably a compelling interest, but it is hard to see how the challenged regulations can be regarded as ‘narrowly tailored’…They are far more restrictive than any COVID-related regulations that have previously come before the Court, much tighter than those adopted by many other jurisdictions hard-hit by the pandemic, and far more severe than has been shown to be required to prevent the spread of the virus at the applicants’ services.” The unsigned majority opinion
Justice Neil Gorsuch also stated,
“The government is not free to disregard the First Amendment in times of crisis… 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.”
Justices Kavanugh, Alito, Thomas, and Barrett agreed. The government is not free to disregard the Constitution.
Roberts dissented. Has Roberts gone fully into the leftist category? It appears so. He stated that there was “no need” to rule on the situation at this time because the “zones” have changed. The liberal justices also dissented for the same reason. “We don’t have to do it now… They can refile their petition some other time if the zones are reinstated.”
Translation: instead of stopping the leftists NOW from continuing their march against freedom of religion, the lazy liberals want to sluff it off until some other time.
For all of us on this Thanksgiving Day, we are grateful that the court now has 5 solid Conservatives, without the on again, off again Chief Justice.
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