The United States Supreme Court has barred New York from imposing coronavirus restrictions on houses of worship, in a ruling likely to be heralded by conservatives as a victory for religious freedoms. Source: SBS News.
Services should not be treated differently from permitted secular gatherings, the unsigned ruling said, one of the first since the appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett tipped the court’s balance to the conservatives.
Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York state, had ordered that only up to 10 people could gather at sites of worship in high-risk areas designated “red zones”.
The court was responding to two applications – Diocese of Brooklyn, as well as two synagogues – claiming they were singled out under the restrictions designed to limit the contagion’s spread in hard-hit New York City.
In a five-four split, the top US court said the measures violated the First Amendment’s protection of the free exercise of religion.
The court had previously swung the opposite way, upholding similar restrictions on services in California and Nevada.
The shift is indicative of the court’s new weighting, with the three remaining liberals now outnumbered after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September.
The court noted that: “Even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten.”
Brooklyn Bishop NIcholas Di Marzio said he was gratified by the decision.
The bishop noted Mr Cuomo’s restrictions “were an overreach that did not take into account the size of our churches or the safety protocols that have kept parishioners safe.”