The Supreme Court temporarily blocked an order being enforced in New York limiting the attendance at places of worship in hard hit COVID-19 areas. In a 5-4 vote, the majority voted that the order was unconstitutional based upon religious freedom.
The Supreme Court’s majority ruled that “even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten. The restrictions at issue here… strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty.” Justice Amy Coney Barrett along with Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh voted in the majority while the three liberal justices and Chief Justice John Roberts dissented.
The emergency rulings came Wednesday night and were considered a victory for Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Agudath Israel, an Orthodox Jewish congregation, who both “challenged” the attendance limits being imposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“Stemming the spread of COVID–19 is unquestionably a compelling interest, but it is hard to see how the challenged regulations can be regarded as ‘narrowly tailored,’” the court wrote in an unsigned opinion. “They are far more restrictive than any COVID–related regulations that have previously come before the Court, much tighter than those adopted by many other jurisdictions hard-hit by the pandemic, and far more severe than has been shown to be required to prevent the spread of the virus at the applicants’ services.”