US Supreme Court clears New York churches, synagogues of COVID-19 restrictions

Washington, Nov 26 (Sputnik) The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled to exempt the churches and synagogues of New York’s Brooklyn and Queens boroughs from the coronavirus-related restrictions, imposed by governor Andrew Cuomo.
With the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn as the initial applicant, the ruling was also applied to Agudath Israel of America, an association representing Haredi Orthodox Jews. Both had to comply with Cuomo’s Executive Order 202.68, which limited the maximum attendance in “red” and “orange” coronavirus zones to 10 people and 25 people, respectively.
“Respondent is enjoined from enforcing Executive Order 202.68’s 10- and 25-person occupancy limits on applicant pending disposition of the appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and disposition of the petition for a writ of certiorari, if such writ is timely sought,” the ruling read.
One of the reasons justice Stephen Breyer said were behind the ruling was that while religious organizations were enforced the occupancy limits, many businesses categorized as “essential” continued to admit as many people as they wish. This included such businesses as “acupuncture facilities, campgrounds, garages, as well as many whose services are not limited to those that can be regarded as essential,” as stated in the ruling.
Churches and synagogues, on the other hand, have “admirable safety records,” and there is no evidence that they have contributed to the spread of COVID-19, as opposed to some factories and retail facilities that have continued business as usual, according to the ruling.
Additionally, the justice argued that the maximum attendance at a religious institution could be proportionate to its size, noting that “almost all of the 25 [Roman Catholic] churches affected by the executive order can seat at least 500 people, 14 can accommodate at least 700, and 2 can seat over 1,000.”
As reported by CNN, the court sided with the religious institutions by five votes against four, with the voice of justice Amy Coney Barrett, who chose to support her conservative counterparts rather than the liberal justices, showing the court’s shift rightward. Barrett was appointed by outgoing US President Donald Trump in October, ensuring a Republic majority in the court.
The ruling was issued just before midnight on Thursday.


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