New York: Federal appeals court blocks Governor Cuomo's restrictions on size of religious gatherings

Federal appeals court blocks Governor Cuomo's restrictions on size of religious gatherings

Left: Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn. CNA file photo / Right: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, pictured in 2016. Credit: a kat/Shutterstock
Left: Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn. CNA file photo / Right: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, pictured in 2016. Credit: a kat/Shutterstock

.- Handing an important religious freedom victory to houses of worship in New York, the federal Second Circuit court ordered that the 10 and 25-person caps to worship had to be suspended while the case is pending.

The Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn is a plaintiff in the case.

Randy Mastro, an attorney representing the diocesese, said Tuesday night his team was "gratified by the Court's decision, which reaffirms that the Governor's onerous fixed capacity limits on 'houses of worship' go too far in restricting the free exercise of religion. Our client, the Diocese of Brooklyn, is pleased to be able to continue to welcome parishioners to Mass, and will continue to do so under strict protocols, like mask wearing and social distancing, that keep them safe."

According to the Becket Fund, which represented a group of synagogues and rabbis, the court's decision "effectively means that New York cannot enforce its caps against any house of worship."

"And since Connecticut is also in the Second Circuit, it means that Connecticut’s similar caps on worship are unconstitutional," Becket Fund explained in a tweet.

On November 25, the day before Thanksgiving, the Supreme Court ruled that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 10 and 25-person caps on worship attendance were discriminatory against synagogues and other houses of worship. Since that decision, a majority of states have moved away from caps on worship attendance.

"The Court also said that after remand the district court had to reconsider the 25% and 33% percentage capacity limits using 'strict scrutiny' – the highest standard known to constitutional law. That will be a hard standard for the Governor to meet," The Becket Fund stated.

"It would be better to stop trying to restrict synagogues, churches, and mosques. Gov. Cuomo should read the writing on the wall and let New York join the 33 states that do not cap or put percentage limits on in-person worship," The Becket Fund added.

According to Eric Rassbach, attorney at the Becket Fund, "under the Second Circuit standard, California would lose immediately. It makes no sense to allow thousands to mob Macy's etc., as they did before and after Christmas while allowing zero worship. No other state has such differential treatment of worship.”

Tags: Archdiocese of New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, Covid-19

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