Tags: Coronavirus | Religion | Supreme Court | churches | andrew cuomo | restrictions | worship

NYC Catholic Diocese Asks SCOTUS to Block COVID-19 Church Restrictions

a graphic showing a gavel coming down on the words religious freedom
(Dreamstime)

By    |   Thursday, 12 November 2020 04:36 PM

A Roman Catholic diocese in New York City asked the Supreme Court to block New York's coronavirus restrictions on houses of worship, arguing the rules unfairly target religion.

The Diocese of Brooklyn, which covers Brooklyn and Queens, is challenging an executive order signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Oct. 6 that limits church attendance to 10 people in the state's "red" zones and 25 in "orange" zones, CNBC reported.

Both boroughs have seen increases in coronavirus cases, including in large Orthodox Jewish communities.

In its emergency high court filing, the diocese argued Cuomo's order "expressly singles out 'houses of worship' by that name for adverse treatment relative to secular businesses, and does so in a way that is not narrowly tailored to any compelling government interest, in direct violation of the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause."

The diocese asked the justices to step in while it pursues its appeals in the lower courts. If the justices do not, the diocese argues, thousands of parishioners "will continue to be deprived of their core Free Exercise rights on a daily basis," CNBC reported.

The high court has rejected similar challenges by religious groups in California, in May, and Nevada, in July.

But those decisions came before the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September — and the court has not issued a decision in such a case since the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who was confirmed to fill the vacancy. She is expected to shift the bench to the right.

In its filing, the diocese noted secular businesses are not under the same restrictions as houses of worship. In red zones, the group wrote, essential businesses that are allowed to remain open include "everything from supermarkets to pet stores, huge hardware stores to brokers' offices," CNBC reported.

"In 'orange' zones, even the vast majority of nonessential businesses, including department stores, can remain open without limitation — yet churches cannot," the diocese added.

The filing was submitted to Justice Stephen Breyer, who has jurisdiction over emergency appeals stemming from New York, but will likely be considered by the full court, CNBC reported.

Two lower courts, including the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, have rejected the religious organization's effort to block the state's COVID-19 restrictions while it pursues its case.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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A Roman Catholic diocese in New York City asked the Supreme Court to block New York's coronavirus restrictions on houses of worship, arguing the rules unfairly target religion.
churches, andrew cuomo, restrictions, worship, new york, pandemic, scotus, covid-19
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2020-36-12
Thursday, 12 November 2020 04:36 PM
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