US Supreme Court blocks Cuomo’s restrictions on limiting worshippers

The 5-4 decision marks the first time that new justice Amy Coney Barrett tipped the balance in a court decision.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s restrictions limiting the number of worshippers at religious institutions on Wednesday night. The decision temporarily blocks state orders that saw limits of 10 to 25 worshippers at one location.

The 5-4 decision marks the first time that new justice Amy Coney Barrett, who was recently appointed to the court by President Trump and gave the court a 6-3 conservative majority, tipped the balance in a court decision.

“Even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten,” read the opinion, which sided with a petition brought forth by New York religious organizations.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox Jewish organization, filed a challenge to the New York restrictions on November 12th.

“The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty.”

“It is hard to believe that admitting more than 10 people to a 1,000–seat church or 400–seat synagogue would create a more serious health risk than the many other activities that the State allows,” the opinion reads.

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Chief Justice John Roberts dissented, voting alongside the three liberal judges on the court. He explained that he felt the responsibilities to set guidelines lay with municipal and state officials.

“It is a significant matter to override determinations made by public health officials concerning what is necessary for public safety in the midst of a deadly pandemic,” Roberts wrote.

Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch criticized Roberts’ opinion on deferring to local and state authorities, writing that it was the court’s job to uphold the Constitution.

“It is time – past time – to make plain that, while the pandemic poses many grave challenges, there is no world in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike shops but shutter churches, synagogues, and mosques,” he wrote.