Supreme Court Blocks Andrew Cuomo’s Religious COVID-19 Lockdown as Violation of First Amendment Rights

NEW YORK, NY – The United States Supreme Court has barred, temporarily an executive order issued by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo that restricts religious gatherings.   The 5-4 decision ruled that Cuomo’s executive order was in violation of the First Amendment.

“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,” the decision read.

The case was filed against the state by the Catholic Diocese and Orthodox Jewish Synagogues in New York.

“The applicants have clearly established their entitlement to relief pending appellate review. They have shown that their First Amendment claims are likely to prevail, that denying them relief would lead to irreparable injury, and that granting relief would not harm the public interest,” the ruling stated.

In a red zone, while a synagogue or church may not admit more than 10 persons, businesses categorized as “essential” may admit as many people as they wish. And the list of “essential” businesses includes things such as acupuncture facilities, campgrounds, garages, as well as many whose services are not limited to those that can be regarded as essential, such as all plants manufacturing chemicals and microelectronics and all transportation facilities.

“These categorizations lead to troubling results,” the court ruled. ”

“The loss of First Amendment freedoms, for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury,” the opinion by the Supreme Court stated.

“These restrictions apply even to the largest cathedrals and synagogues, which ordinarily hold hundreds. And the restrictions apply no matter the precautions taken, including social distancing,” Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch said, “Government is not free to disregard the First Amendment in times of crisis. At a minimum, that Amendment prohibits government officials from treating religious exercises worse than comparable secular activities, unless they are pursuing a compelling.”

“New York’s restrictions on houses of worship not only are severe, but also are discriminatory,” Justice Kavanaugh wrote.