SCOTUS Sides with Religious Groups in 5-4 Ruling on COVID Restrictions

The U.S. Supreme Court has barred the State of New York from implementing COVID-19 restrictions on religious services in the state, saying the measures went against the First Amendment’s protection of the free exercise of religion.

The U.S. Supreme Court has barred the State of New York from implementing COVID-19 restrictions on religious services in the state, saying the measures went against the First Amendment’s protection of the free exercise of religion.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett sided with the conservative majority in the 5-4 ruling late on Wednesday. It was deemed as Barrett’s first publicly discernible vote as a conservative justice since she assumed office in October.

In the unsigned ruling, the court’s majority claimed that the state’s restrictions “single out houses of worship for especially harsh treatment.”

According to the court’s decision, the members of the court respect the judgment of the public authorities that have “special expertise” in protecting the health of people.

However, the court contended that “the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten” even in the midst of the pandemic.

“Government is not free to disregard the First Amendment in times of crisis,” Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch said in the ruling. “At a minimum, that Amendment prohibits government officials from treating religious exercises worse than comparable secular activities, unless they are pursuing a compelling interest and using the least restrictive means available.”

Under New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s COVID-19 restrictions, the number of individuals attending religious services would be limited according to geographic zones in areas categorized as “red” or “orange” zones.

Religious groups celebrated the court’s decision, appreciating the court’s recognition of a “clear First Amendment violation and urgent need for relief in this case.”.

“I have said from the beginning the restrictions imposed by Governor Cuomo were an overreach that did not take into account the size of our churches or the safety protocols that have kept parishioners safe,” Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said in a statement.


© Fourth Estate® — All Rights Reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.