The Supreme Court late Wednesday temporarily blocked New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo from setting capacity limits at houses of worship in certain state-designated coronavirus hot spots.
In a 5-4 decision, the nation’s highest court sided with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Orthodox Jewish synagogues that sued the governor over the state-imposed caps in areas declared red and orange zones.
“Even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten,” the unsigned opinion said.
Newly confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett cast the deciding assenting vote in favor of the religious groups.
Not surprising, Chief Justice John Roberts joined the three liberal justices in dissenting.
Cuomo Thumbs His Oversized Nose At The Supreme Court
A defiant Cuomo claimed Thursday that the Supreme Court’s order temporarily blocking New York from setting coronavirus capacity limits at houses of worship is “irrelevant” and “moot,”
Cuomo, in a Thanksgiving Day conference call with reporters, insisted the order was moot because the houses of worship in question in the court battle are no longer in designated red and orange zones in Brooklyn in Queens so the restrictions no longer apply to them.
The safety restriction to tame the pandemic imposed attendance caps at houses of worship from 10 to 25 people, respectively. The plaintiffs argued that the restrictions violated their religious freedoms under the First Amendment and unfairly targeted them while businesses deemed essential, including groceries and takeout restaurants, were allowed to operate.
“The Supreme Court made a ruling. It’s more illustrative of the Supreme Court than anything else,” Cuomo said, noting the court’s new conservative bent with the addition of Justice Amy Coney Barrett by President Trump.
“It’s irrelevant of any practical impact because of the zone they were talking about is moot. It expired last week,” the governor said, adding, “It doesn’t have any practical effect.”
“The lawsuit was about the Brooklyn zone. The Brooklyn zone no longer exists as a red zone. That’s muted. So that restriction is no longer in effect. That situation just doesn’t exist because those restrictions are gone.”
The governor’s legal adviser Beth Garvey, said houses of worship are now governed by less restrictive 50 percent capacity limits.
F**k Off Cuomo, The SCOTUS Isn’t Irrelevant
In its decision, the nation’s highest court said its decision temporarily blocking Cuomo’s executive order on the 10- and 25-person occupancy limits remain in effect pending further deliberation in the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. They acknowledged the order narrowly addressed the zones in question, which are outdated.
Still, in the larger context, the five justices in the majority warned they won’t tolerate violations of the First Amendment right to religious freedom — telegraphing what they might do on broader cases involving statewide restrictions on houses of worship, for example.
“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. But even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten,” the judges said.
“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.
“There can be no question that the challenged restrictions if enforced, will cause irreparable harm…. If only 10 people are admitted to each service, the great majority of those who wish to attend Mass on Sunday or services in a synagogue on Shabbat will be barred.”