Gov. Cuomo Tries to Dismiss Supreme Court’s Prevention of Shul Restrictions

Gov. Cuomo Tries to Dismiss Supreme Court’s Prevention of Shul Restrictions

By Yehudit Garmaise

     Although the U.S. Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, decided last night to prohibit Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s restrictions on the maximum attendance in houses of worship during the COVID pandemic, this morning, on a conference call, the governor dismissed the Supreme Court’s ruling. 

    “This decision is really an opportunity for Supreme Court to express its philosophy and politics, and it really doesn’t have a practical effect,” said the governor, who repeatedly tried to downplay the Supreme Court’s ruling, saying that it was merely conservative posturing and that it still has to go through the 2nd Circuit Court.

    In October, the governor had said that attendance in houses of worship in a red zone would be limited to a 25% capacity/10 person maximum, and in an orange zone to a 33% maximum capacity, restrictions that have now been fought in three different courts in a case brought by Agudath Israel and the Roman Catholic Diocese.

   Although the governor continued to negate the importance of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision to prevent further restrictions on attendance in houses of worship, when he asked his legal adviser, Beth Garvey  what the further legal ramifications of the landmark Supreme Court decision would be, Garvey replied: “The Supreme Court is saying you would be enjoined from making restrictions below 50% in a red zone.”

   Gov. Cuomo responded that the ruling is “moot” because the red zone restrictions in Brooklyn and Queens have been lifted now that COVID positivity rates in those boroughs have significantly decreased. 

   Although the governor said, “the red zone situation doesn’t exist anymore,” Mordechai Biser, an attorney for Agudath Israel, said that the victory is huge because it sets a precedent. The legal principal that the state cannot enforce limits on attendance in houses of worship is important for future cases, Biser explained. “The fact that right now, there has been relaxation in certain areas doesn’t mean that two weeks from now those restrictions can’t be slapped back on again,” Biser said.

   "Today, on Thanksgiving we’re thankful that the basic constitutional right to practice religion freely that we value so dearly as Americans has been upheld by our nation's highest court," said Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein. "Unfortunately, our executive leadership in New York has deemed religion to be nonessential, but the U.S. Supreme Court has uphold our freedom of religion. 

  “Agudath Israel of America and Catholic Archdiocese also deserve a great deal of thanks for bringing this case before the courts. Religion shall flourish in America not suffer here."

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