The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday night blocked New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo from reimposing strict attendance caps at worship services in areas hit laborious by the novel coronavirus.
The court dominated 5-four to bar Cuomo from enforcing his Oct. half-dozen “Cluster Initiative” against houses of worship that sued to challenge the restrictions.
The order was conjointly the primary in which Justice Amy Coney Barrett played a decisive role. Barrett, who was President Trump’s third Supreme Court nominee, joined the court on Oct. 27, once winning Senate confirmation following the Sept. eighteen death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
This was one in all the first consequential rulings since conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett was appointed.
President Donald Trump appointed her to interchange liberal predecessor Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September.
Justice Barrett voted in the bulk, along with alternative Trump appointees Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
The 3 liberal justices dissented, as did conservative Chief Justice John Roberts.
Earlier this year, before Justice Ginsburg’s death, the court voted to leave similar restrictions in place in California and Nevada.
The Supreme Court’s membership has modified since then, with Justice Barrett succeeding Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September. The vote in the earlier cases was conjointly five to four, but in the opposite direction, with Chief Justice Roberts joining Justice Ginsburg and the other three members of what was then the court’s four-member liberal wing.
In an unsigned opinion, the bulk said Mr. Cuomo’s restrictions violated the First Amendment’s protection of the free exercise of faith.
In a concurring opinion, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch said Mr. Cuomo had treated secular activities additional favorably than religious ones.
“It’s time — past time — to create plain that, while the pandemic poses many grave challenges, there’s no word in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded govt edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike retailers but shutter churches, synagogues, and mosques,” wrote Gorsuch, who was also named to the court by President Trump.
“Therefore, at least according to the Governor, it may be unsafe to travel to church, however, it is perpetually fine to pick up another bottle of wine, look for a replacement bike, or spend the afternoon exploring your distal points and meridians,” he continued, per a tweet from The Economist correspondent Steven Mazie. “Who knew public health would so perfectly align with secular convenience?”
The court’s order addressed two applications: one filed by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, the opposite by two synagogues, an Orthodox Jewish organization, and two people. The applications each said Mr. Cuomo’s restrictions violated constitutional protections for the free exercise of religion, and the one from the synagogues added that Mr. Cuomo had “singled out an explicit faith for blame and retribution for an uptick in an exceedingly societywide pandemic.”
The restrictions are strict. In shifting “red zones,” where the coronavirus risk is highest, not more than 10 people could attend nonsecular services. In slightly less dangerous “orange zones,” that also are fluid, attendance is capped at 25. This applies even to churches that can seat a lot of than one,00zero individuals.
The measures were prompted in large part by rising coronavirus cases in Orthodox Jewish areas however coated all “houses of worship.”
In a letter to the court last Thursday, Barbara D. Underwood, New York’s solicitor general, said that revisions to the color-coded zones effective Friday meant that “none of the diocese’s churches can be plagued by the gathering-size limits it seeks to enjoin.” The next day, she told the court that the two synagogues were conjointly now not subject to the challenged restrictions.