The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday night, Nov. 25, blocked New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) new CCP (Chinese Communist Party) Virus (COVID-19) restrictions on religious services with the 5-4 decision in which Justice Amy Coney Barrett cast a decisive vote.
Cuomo issued an executive order in October against houses of worship as part of the state’s effort to stem the spread of the CCP Virus. The executive order limited religious gatherings to 10 people in some areas and 25 people in others.
Cuomo even threatened to close synagogues if they did not comply with the order.
The Supreme Court ruled that Cuomo’s restrictions violated the Constitution’s First Amendment right to freedom of worship and sided with religious groups by granting an injunction barring the rules from being enforced.
“Stemming the spread of COVID–19 [the CCP Virus] is unquestionably a compelling interest, but it is hard to see how the challenged regulations can be regarded as “narrowly tailored,”’ the decision read. “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.”
“Members of this Court are not public health experts, and we should respect the judgment of those with special expertise and responsibility in this area,” it added. “But even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten. 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.”
Justice Neil Gorsuch, in the concurring opinion, said churches and synagogues were treated differently than commercial institutions by the state.
“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,” Gorsuch wrote.
Chief Justice John Roberts sided in dissent with the court’s liberal bloc, accusing the court of overriding determinations made by the public health expertise of the state.