Written by Zachary Stieber via The Epoch Times,
The Supreme Court on Wednesday evening blocked New York officials from limiting religious gatherings, a victory for Orthodox Jews who had filed a lawsuit over restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Members of this Court are not experts in public health, and we must respect the judgment of those who have particular expertise and responsibility in this area, ”said the majority opinion.
“But even in the event of a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be set aside and forgotten. The restrictions at issue here, by effectively preventing many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom.
In a 5-4 decision, the nation’s highest court said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, and other officials could not enforce occupancy limits set in a previous executive order.
Cuomo had demanded that attendance at church services remain at 10 or fewer in so-called red areas and 25 or less in orange areas.
Officials in New York have created a color-coded system to mark the levels they believe the pandemic has affected certain areas.
Lawsuits brought by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Agudath Israel of America sparked the decision.
“Containing the spread of COVID-19 is undoubtedly a compelling interest, but it is difficult to see how the contested regulations can be considered ‘tightly fitting'” the Supreme Court said in the unsigned majority opinion.
“They are much more restrictive than any COVID related regulations that have already been submitted to the Court, much more stringent than those adopted by many other jurisdictions hit hard by the pandemic, and much more severe than what has been shown to prevent the spread of the virus from the applicants’ services. “
The Supreme Court in Washington, September 21, 2020. (Samira Bouaou / The Epoch Times)
COVID-19 is the disease caused by the virus of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party). Most patients get better, but a small percentage die.
The plaintiffs were likely to prevail over the First Amendment ground, the court ruled.
Donald Trump-appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote a separate opinion from the Conservative majority, saying churches and synagogues were treated differently from commercial institutions by the state.
“It is time – the time has passed – to make it clear that while the pandemic poses many serious challenges, there is no world in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive decrees that reopen liquor stores and bicycle shops, but which close churches, synagogues and mosques. , “ Gorsuch argued.
Judge Brett Kavanaugh, a person appointed by Trump, also concurred, noting that temporary injunctions were warranted but the Nov. 25 rulings were not final.
Amy Coney Barrett, nominated by Trump, and Clarence Thomas, nominated by George W. Bush, and Samuel Alito also voted to prevent the restrictions from being enforced.
A Hasidic Jew walks past a closed synagogue in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, New York, October 9, 2020 (Angela Weiss / AFP via Getty Images)
John Roberts, the chief justice of the court, appointed by Bush, said in a dissenting opinion that “there is simply no need” to grant an injunction.
“The digital capacity limits of 10 and 25 people, depending on the applicable zone, seem unduly restrictive. And it may be that such restrictions violate the free exercise clause.
However, it is not necessary for us to speak out on this serious and difficult issue at this time.», He alleged.
Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, nominated by Barack Obama, joined Stephen Breyer, nominated by Bill Clinton, in a separate dissenting opinion.
Breyer wrote that he also believed there was no need to issue an injunction because the parts of Brooklyn and Queens where the diocesan churches and the two requesting synagogues are located are no longer in red zones or oranges. Cuomo, whose office did not respond to a request for comment, made the point last week in a court file.
“The petitioners point out that the state may reimpose red or orange zone restrictions in the future. But, if that happened, they could resubmit their claims here, by short letter if necessary. And this Court, if necessary, could then decide the matter in a day or two, maybe even in a few hours, ”Breyer wrote.
“Why should this Court act now without argument or full consideration in the ordinary course of business (and before consideration of the matter by the Court of Appeal) when there is no legal or practical need to do it? I have not found any convincing answer to this question.
Finally, we note that earlier this year, the court refused to lift pandemic restrictions in California and Nevada when the late Liberal Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg was in court.
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