COVID-19: U.S. Supreme Court blocks setting crowd limit in worship centres
In a ruling, the logic of which can be copied in pandemic wracked countries, the US Supreme Court blocked New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo from setting capacity limits at houses of worship, even in COVID-19 hot spots.
In a 5-4 decision, the court sided with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Orthodox Jewish synagogues that sued the governor over the state-imposed caps in areas declared red and orange zones.
“Even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten,” the unsigned opinion said.
“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.”
The ruling has little impact at this time since the groups that sued are not currently subjected to the attendance limits since they are in the less-restrictive yellow zones.
The houses of worship argued the restrictions, imposed by Cuomo on Oct. 6, violated their religious freedoms under the First Amendment. They also felt they were unfairly facing stricter limitations than essential businesses.
Newly confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett cast the deciding assenting vote in favor of the religious groups.
Chief Justice John Roberts joined the three liberal justices in dissenting.
“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.