Orthodox Jews, Catholic priests sue NY governor, mayor over corona discrimination

The  governor of New York and mayor of New York City abused their power, according to the complaint filed in the lawsuit.

By Aaron Sull, World Israel News

Three Orthodox Jews and two Catholic priests sued New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in federal court on Wednesday for violating their rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

The lawsuit, filed by Orthodox Jews Elchanan Perr, Daniel Schonborn, and Mayer Mayerfeld, along with Catholic priests Steven Soos and Nicholas Stamos, accuses the governor and mayor of using “blatant double standards” when enforcing coronavirus violations against small religious gatherings in comparison to enforcement approaches used with thousands who have taken to the streets to protest the death of George Floyd.

“The COVID-19 related orders purport to be facially neutral, yet fail to prohibit secular activity that endangers the state interest in ‘public health’ equally or to a greater degree than the prohibited religious conduct,” Christopher Ferrara, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told the National Review.

“Why is a large worship gathering deemed more dangerous than a mass protest, full of shouting, arm-waving people in close proximity to one another?”

The lawsuit also highlights incidents in which de Blasio didn’t wear a mask, ignored social distancing, and did not disband a large political gathering that he attended on June 4. In contrast, just days later a small group of Hasidic children playing in a park were forced to leave.

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The lawsuit also accuses Cuomo and de Blasio of abusing their power and acting like dictators during the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is time to end New York’s experiment in absolute monarchy,” said Ferrara. “We are asking the court to put an end to these unconstitutional executive orders and grant a temporary restraining order against their prejudicial enforcement.”

De Blasio came under heavy fire in April when he called out the entire Jewish community, instead of the few who violated coronavirus regulations, during the funeral procession of a prominent rabbi.

“My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed,” de Blasio tweeted at the time. “I have instructed the NYPD to proceed immediately to summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups. This is about stopping this disease and saving lives. Period.”

Although de Blasio walked back the comments shortly afterward, many were not satisfied with the apology.