|Supreme Court ruling doesnt have ‘any practical effect,’ Cuomo says
|Thu, 26 Nov 2020 17:55:58 +0000
ALBANY, N.Y. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is downplaying the significance of a Supreme Court decision blocking him enforcing stringent attendance limits on religious institutions in Covid hot spots.
That Supreme Court ruling on the religious gatherings is more illustrative of the Supreme Court than anything else, Cuomo said on a Thanksgiving morning briefing call. Its irrelevant from any practical impact.
The Wednesday night decision came after a challenge by Catholic and Jewish organizations in Brooklyn neighborhoods that the governor placed in a red zone earlier this fall. Under that classification, congregations of more than 10 people at a time were prohibited.
A 5-4 majority found that the limitation resulted in disparate treatment, as religious institutions were subjected to more stringent regulations than places like liquor stores and bike shops. Chief Justice John Roberts voted with the minority.
All of that, however, is mooted because the neighborhoods in question are no longer considered red zones and are now subjected to a more lenient 50 percent capacity limit, said Cuomo counsel Beth Garvey. And even if the infection rates increase enough to justify imposing the red zone classification again, the governor has not been completely barred from mandating some public health rules.
The decision noted that some capacity restrictions could be permissible, Garvey said. Other rules such as the wearing of masks and social distancing could also certainly be enforced at religious institutions, she said.
Look, Im a former altar boy, Catholic grammar school, Catholic high school, Jesuits at college, so I fully respect religion and if theres a time in life we need it, the time is now, said Cuomo. But we want to make sure we keep people safe at the same time. And thats the balance were trying to hit, especially through this holiday season.
The NYS Catholic Conference, which represents the state’s Catholic bishops, characterized the ruling as an important one for religious liberty, but pledged to continue working with the state to combat the pandemic.
While we believe, and the Court agreed, that the hot zone restrictions on religious gatherings were unduly harsh, our churches have been otherwise eager partners with the state in protecting the health of our parishioners, clergy, staff, and surrounding communities during this devastating pandemic, director of communications Dennis Poust said in a statement. That will continue, as protecting the vulnerable is a pro-life principle.
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