The Supreme Court on Wednesday night sided with religious organizations challenging Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s coronavirus restrictions and called the New York Democrat’s measures “discriminatory” in its injunction for emergency relief.
The conservative justices, including Justice Amy Coney Barrett, favored the religious groups in a 5-4 ruling, while Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal justices.
It was the first time Barrett was a deciding factor as the court’s newest justice after being appointed by President Donald Trump to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The majority said that Cuomo’s coronavirus restrictions on religious communities 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.”
Earlier this year, the court ruled 5-4 in favor of restrictions on worship in California and Nevada.
“New York’s restrictions on houses of worship not only are severe, but also are discriminatory,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in his concurring opinion on Wednesday.
“In light of the devastating pandemic, I do not doubt the State’s authority to impose tailored restrictions — even very strict restrictions — on attendance at religious services and secular gatherings alike,” Kavanaugh continued.
“But the New York restrictions on houses of worship are not tailored to the circumstances given the First Amendment interests at stake.”
Jewish organizations, represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, asked the Supreme Court to consider whether Cuomo’s executive order violates the Constitution when it “disfavors worship” and “when the official who issued it made clear through unambiguous statements that the order was targeted at a religious minority’s practices and traditions.”
“The Governor made overwhelmingly clear that his [executive order] was designed to target a particular religious minority that he falsely blames for the spread of COVID-19 — Orthodox Jews,” the groups argued.
Cuomo had told Orthodox Jews in early October: “If you’re not willing to live with these rules, then I’m going to close the synagogues.”
“The Governor did not attack religious belief generally, but singled out a particular religion for blame and retribution for an uptick in a society-wide pandemic,” the injunction request said.
“He threatened ‘members of the ultra-Orthodox community’ and referred to them as a ‘problem,’ due to his own perceptions of the community.”
Justice Neil Gorsuch noted in his opinion that in Cuomo’s judgement, “laundry and liquor, travel and tools, are all ‘essential’ while traditional religious exercises are not.”
“That is exactly the kind of discrimination the First Amendment forbids,” Gorsuch wrote.
Cuomo’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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