Supreme Court Rules New York Cannot Limit Attendance At Houses Of Worship Due To COVID-19

Here & Now


Some religious groups in new york are celebrating last night's rare late night. Supreme court decision blocking an executive order from new york governor andrew cuomo that restricted attendance at religious services in their neighborhoods because the pandemic ultra orthodox jewish organizations in brooklyn and queens and the roman catholic diocese of brooklyn claim. That cuomo single them out. The state pointed to the recent spike in covid nineteen cases. And then there was that alarming ultra orthodox wedding last week. The two hundreds not wearing masks. The court's decision was five. Four with its newest justice emmy coney barrett considered the fifth vote. Emily brazilan staff writer at new york times magazine and fellow at the yale law. School is here emily. Thank you for taking a break from your thanksgiving thanks. You are welcome. Glad to be here. And we should say the to litigants the ultra orthodox jewish groups and the catholic diocese were already not subject to these restrictions. Because they've been lifted there's a color system for restrictions in new york and Cova cases had obey abated in their area. But what was the argument from the court in blocking even targeted restrictions. Well the corpus arguing that new york hadn't shown that less strict measures would be enough to protect public health. Which is a pretty cursory kind of way of thinking about this. You can see the concur. Ince's by justice gorsuch as justice cavanaugh. That some of the conservative judges didn't like the idea that essential businesses which were permitted to open a new york included stores but did not include houses of worship. And i think the odd thing about the majority's analysis here is what it's comparing so the majority behaves as if people going to stores are the same as people congregating in a house of worship even though it's very unusual in store for lots of people to be sitting together or certainly singing or chanting together for a long time. That's all in a church or synagogue or a mosque and we know that that is a riskier activity. So there was no discussion of the science or scientific public health considerations in the majority's opinion. And what about chief. Justice john robertson. The three liberal justices dissenting. What did they say. Well chief justice. John roberts says there's no reason for us to decide this right now for the reason that you gave earlier new york had a lift these restrictions for now because the krona virus spread is not as bad in the city so these restrictions said that in the red zone the highest risk new york. You could have ten people in a house of worship in the orange zone. You could have twenty-five people but the catholic archdiocese in the docks synagogues that have sued. They no longer are subject to those restrictions and so she's jeff roberts was making a kind of traditional conservative judicial modesty Moved here in which he said. Look if they're subject to these restrictions again maybe they will be proved to be unduly harsh but at the moment. They're not so we don't need to step in here. And this is a classic example of a judge saying you know what. Let's leave this in the hands of public. Health officials not have judges step in to make these decisions. Unless it's absolutely necessary will be clear. What does it mean. I mean be clear. Only because i'm not able to figure this out. Temporary decision made on an emergency basis by the way when ruth bader ginsburg was on the court roberts sided with the liberals and the decision was in favor of restrictions that was when california had restrictions in place. So obviously there's been a tilt here but what does this mean for other states for new york when it comes to restrictions on houses of worship in the pandemic y- i'm kind of scratching my head about that too. I mean it looks like what the court is saying. Is that if you have businesses open you have to treat churches and other houses of worship just like those businesses but without paying attention to the greater risk that the church that you know religious service can entail and that's very strange to me because it seems so at odds with the science and what we know about the spread of coronavirus. And so you're right. This is a decision. That's a temporary restraining. Order against new york. The merits the kind of larger case is still to be thrashed out the lower courts and so one hopes going forward that there will be more attention to these apples to apples. Comparisons and figuring out what the state really needs to do to protect public health and mall many have seen the video from the acidic wedding in brooklyn this month. Hundreds packing a synagogue. No-one wearing masks mayor. Bill de blasio said or organizers will find fifteen thousand for violating restrictions. And so we're keeping an eye on that to see what happens. There might be any kind of consideration of

Coming up next