Cuomo calls US Supreme Court's religious gatherings ruling 'irrelevant'


The majority said his limits violated the First Amendment's protection of the free exercise of religion.

On Oct. 6 Cuomo, a Democrat, imposed restrictions on the size of religious gatherings based on the number of new cases occurring in "hot spots" across the state.

The Court majority held that the order was not neutral because it "single [s] out houses of worship for especially harsh treatment".

Then-Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett is seen October 21, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington. "The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the 1st Amendment's guarantee of religious liberty", the court said in an unsigned opinion in Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brooklyn vs. Cuomo. The Brooklyn zone no longer exists as a red zone. Chief Justice John Roberts sided with liberal Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor.

The particular case was brought by a Catholic diocese, but the issue has raged in NY as Orthodox Jewish congregations have flouted attendance limits with marriages attended by thousands.

Last month, lawyers for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese filed suit in federal court in Brooklyn contending the red and orange limits were unconstitutional because they prohibited most people from going to Mass.

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The latest decision reflects Justice Amy Coney Barrett's impact on a now conservative-leaning Supreme Court.

"Governor has chosen to impose no capacity restrictions on certain businesses he considers 'essential, '" commented Gorsuch, "And it turns out the businesses the Governor considers essential include hardware stores, acupuncturists, and liquor stores".

The New York limits also have been changed, but the Supreme Court wanted to send a message and it was clear. "And it is a signifiant matter to override determinations made by public health officials concerning what is necessary for public safety in the midst of a deadly pandemic", he said. The diocese argued it had previously operated safely by capping attendance at 25% of a building's capacity and taking other measures.

Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh said in a separate opinion that Wednesday's order was limited to unusually strict restrictions on houses of worship. NY had argued that religious gatherings were being treated less restrictively than secular gatherings that carried the same infection risk, like concerts and theatrical performances.

"The applicants point out that the State might reimpose the red or orange zone restrictions in the future".

"I fully respect religion, and if there's a time in life we need it, the time is now", Cuomo said. The New York-based 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals declined emergency requests filed by both sets of challengers on November 9.