The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a blow to Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ahead of Thanksgiving, temporarily striking down restrictions on religious expression across the state.
In a 5–4 opinion, the majority issued a temporary injunction against limitations on the size of gatherings at houses of worship in the Empire State, Breitbart reported.
The plaintiffs in the case reportedly followed recommended COVID-19 guidelines and, as the majority decided, received “especially harsh treatment” resulting in “irreparable harm” to their First Amendment rights.
New York churches and synagogues had been limited to groups of 10 and 25 in designated “red” and “orange” zones, respectively. Secular businesses, however, had not been subjected to the same restrictions, leading to the claims of discrimination.
“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,” the Supreme Court ruling explained. “And the list of ‘essential’ businesses includes things such as acupuncture facilities, camp grounds, 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.”
Justice Neil Gorsuch’s fiery concurring opinion, including a denunciation of Cuomo’s double standards, earned widespread praise from conservatives.
“So, at least according to the Governor, it may be unsafe to go to church, but it is always fine to pick up another bottle of wine, shop for a new bike, or spend the afternoon exploring your distal points and meridians,” Gorsuch wrote. “Who knew public health would so perfectly align with secular convenience?”
“Just isn’t as ‘essential'”
In effect, the Supreme Court bolstered arguments from many Americans — including President Donald Trump — that the nation’s houses of worship should be declared “essential.”
Gorsuch went on to determine that the “only explanation for treating religious places differently seems to be a judgment that what happens there just isn’t as ‘essential’ as what happens in secular spaces.”
For his part, Cuomo dismissed the decision as “irrelevant,” noting that the church restrictions had since been eased, according to the New York Post.
Chief Justice John Roberts argued in a dissenting opinion that, although the orders were “unduly restrictive,” there was no need for relief from the court.
Along with Roberts, the minority opinion was joined by liberal Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.