A federal appeals court has ruled against Democrat New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 10- and 25-person capacity limit for houses of worship. The severity of the restrictions had depended upon whether the church is located in a “red” or “orange” zone respectively and paid no regard to the building capacity of the church.
The three-judge panel for the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on December 28 that Gov. Cuomo’s order “discriminates against religion on its face.”
The ruling means that as the case continues to play out in the court system, Gov. Cuomo and the state of New York cannot enforce their in-person cap on houses of worship.
Judge Michael Pack, an appointee of President Trump, authored the opinion.
“Where government regulations ‘single out houses of worship for especially harsh treatment,’ the government must demonstrate that its policies are narrowly tailored. Id. at 66. The Governor has failed to do that in this case,” Judge Pack wrote.
The plaintiffs in this case also received a favorable ruling in Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Andrew Cuomo. The two plaintiffs include Agudath Israel of America, an American organization that represents Orthodox Jews, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, New York.
Agudath Israel is represented in the case by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a non-profit law firm dedicated to religious freedom.
“Today’s Second Circuit decision ordered that the 10- and 25-person caps had to be enjoined while the case is pending. This effectively means that New York cannot enforce its caps against *any* house of worship,” Becket wrote in a tweet. “And since Connecticut is also in the Second Circuit, it means that Connecticut’s similar caps on worship are unconstitutional.”
Becket also noted that the Supreme Court’s opinion in Diocese led to a monumental shift in the way lower courts have handled government restrictions on church capacity.
“SCOTUS’s ruling worked what one court called a ‘seismic shift’ in the law governing restrictions on worship. Since that decision, states have largely moved away from caps on worship attendance—today only seven states and the District still cap worship,” Becket noted.
“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,” Becket conclude in its tweet thread.
The case is Agudath Israel of America v. Cuomo; Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo.
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