Judge Rules New York Can’t Enforce Stricter Limitations on Religious Gatherings Than Secular Businesses

Volunteers disinfecting a church in March in Mendota, Calif.
Credit…Max Whittaker for The New York Times

A federal judge has blocked New York officials from enforcing state restrictions on outdoor and indoor religious gatherings that are stricter than those imposed on comparable secular entities.

U.S. District Court Judge Gary L. Sharpe issued a preliminary injunction Friday on behalf of two Catholic priests and three rabbis who are suing Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General Letitia James, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The injunction prevents New York from “enforcing any indoor gathering limitations against plaintiffs greater than imposed for Phase 2 industries” and “enforcing any limitation for outdoor gatherings,” provided that the houses of worship adhere to social distancing guidelines.

“The balance of hardships tips in plaintiffs’ favor. Indeed, in the absence of an injunction, plaintiffs’ religious activities will be burdened and continue to be treated less favorably than comparable secular activities,” Sharpe wrote.

“An injunction, on the other hand, does not undercut defendants’ interest in controlling the spread of COVID-19, provided that plaintiffs abide by social distancing guidance.”

The judge also took issue with Cuomo and de Blasio voicing their support for thousands gathering at Black Lives Matter protests, noting the double standard.

“Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio could have just as easily discouraged protests, short of condemning their message, in the name of public health and exercised discretion to suspend enforcement for public safety reasons instead of encouraging what they knew was a flagrant disregard of the outdoor limits and social distancing rules,” Sharpe continued.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Michael Gryboski