The Supreme Court just decided that churches and other houses of religion do not need to abide by Cuomo’s anti-covid restrictions. As we read in the New York Times:
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo accused the U.S. Supreme Court of political partisanship on Thursday after the justices narrowly rejected his coronavirus-based restrictions on religious services. He played down the impact of the ruling, suggesting that it was a reflection of the court’s emboldened new conservative majority.Regardless of the governor’s interpretation, the decision by the Supreme Court late on Wednesday to suspend the 10- and 25-person capacity limitations on churches and other houses of worship in New York would seem to be a sharp rebuke to Mr. Cuomo, who had previously won a series of legal battles over his emergency powers.“You have a different court, and I think that was the statement that the court was making,” the governor said, noting worries in some quarters after President Trump nominated three conservative justices on the Supreme Court in the past four years. “We know who he appointed to the court. We know their ideology.”Mr. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, insisted that the 5-4 decision “doesn’t have any practical effect” because the restrictions on religious services in Brooklyn, as well as similar ones in Queens and the city’s northern suburbs, had since been eased after the positive test rates in those areas had declined.
But less stringent capacity restrictions, also rejected by the Supreme Court’s decision, are still in place in six other counties, including in Staten Island.After Mr. Cuomo’s remarks, Beth Garvey, his legal counsel, said that the state believed the court’s opinion affected only the now-lapsed restrictions in Brooklyn, and that the other six zones would remain intact. Still, she added that officials would “be looking around the state at the other zones” and evaluating capacity restrictions in the most infected areas, also suggesting the state would continue to argue the case at a lower court level.Legal experts said that despite the governor’s assertion that the decision was limited to parishes and other houses of worship in Brooklyn, the court’s ruling could be used to challenge and overturn other restrictions elsewhere. “The decision is applicable to people in similar situations,” said Norman Siegel, a constitutional lawyer and former leader of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “It’s applicable to any synagogue, any church, to any mosque, to any religious setting.”The decision represented something of a Thanksgiving gift for Catholics and Orthodox Jews, who had blasted Mr. Cuomo’s rules as a profound, and unfair, restriction on their First Amendment freedom of religion.“I have said from the beginning the restrictions imposed by Governor Cuomo were an overreach that did not take into account the size of our churches or the safety protocols that have kept parishioners safe,” said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn on Thursday morning, noting that Catholics had adhered to coronavirus safety protocols at Mass since the virus first emerged in New York in March. “Our churches have not been the cause of any outbreaks.”