Cuomo Unfairly Treated Religious Institutions, New Conservative Supreme Court Rules

( The new conservative majority in the Supreme Court ruled in favor of religious institutions in New York on Wednesday.

In what was a late-night decision, the high court ruled 5-4 in favor of the religious organizations that were suing New York over coronavirus restrictions that Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo put in place.

Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the three liberal justices, but new justice Amy Coney Barrett sided with the four other conservative justices to tilt the decision in their favor. In similar cases from Nevada and California over the summer — before Barrett was on the bench — the court sided with the states.

Wednesday night’s decision resulted in a variety of opinions from the justices. The main opinion was unsigned. It wrote that the New York regulations were treating houses of worship on a harsher scale than that of other secular facilities in the state.

Agudath Israel of America and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn were suing the state of New York over the regulations.

The majority opinion read that the regulations are “far more restrictive than any COVID-related regulations that have previously come before the Court, much tighter than those adopted by many other jurisdictions hard hit by the pandemic, and far more severe than has been shown to be required to prevent the spread of the virus” at religious services.

It continued:

“Not only is there no evidence that the applicants have contributed to the spread of COVID-19 but there are many other less restrictive rules that could be adopted to minimize the risk to those attending religious services.

“Members of this Court are not public health experts, and we should respect the judgment of those with special expertise and responsibility in this area. But even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten.”

Cuomo’s lawyers argued the restrictions were necessary to stop the spread of coronavirus. They also argued the religious institutions weren’t being treated in a different manner than secular businesses.

Cuomo also lifted the restrictions that applied to the institutions while the court case was pending.

Still, the majority opinion read that these houses of worship “remain under a constant threat” of new restrictions being put into place once again. This is why they had ruled this way.

The legal team representing the diocese argued in court papers that the “pandemic alone cannot justify overbroad, untailored closure orders of indefinite duration directed at all houses of worship, that in another time would plainly be found to violate the Constitution.”

The team representing Agudath Israel of America had similar words. They said Cuomo specifically targeted Orthodox Jews who have “violated his prior rules.” They argued:

“The Governor’s guilt-by-religious-association restrictions have made it impossible for Applicants and their members to exercise their religious faith.”

The six different opinions that were written in this case illustrate the potential fight ahead between not just the liberal and conservative justices, but between Roberts and the conservatives. While Roberts had the ability to act as the swing vote in the previous court, he has lost that power now with Barrett on the bench.