Last night, the Supreme Court decided to prevent New York State from reintroducing Covid-19 restrictions on religious gatherings. The court voted 5: 4 in an urgency ruling issued shortly before midnight. Recently confirmed judge Amy Coney Barrett sided with her conservative colleagues in a crucial vote.
In their decision, the majority said that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's restrictions violated the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom. The restrictions were different and depended on the zone: In "red" zones, postal codes where coronavirus infections are highest, no more than 10 people are allowed to attend church services. The number of visitors is limited to 25 in the "orange" zones, where the risk of coronavirus infection is not as high.
The unsigned majority opinion in favor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Agudath Israel of America said the Covid-19 regulations “are far more restrictive than any Covid-related regulations previously brought to justice, much stricter than those passed by many other jurisdictions hard hit by the pandemic far more serious than has been shown to prevent the virus from spreading. "
In contrast, Judges Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan disagreed: "Free religious practice is one of our most precious and jealously guarded constitutional rights," she wrote. “States must not discriminate against religious institutions, even when faced with a crisis as deadly as this. But these principles are not at stake today. "
In particular, Sotomayor said that the constitution “does not prohibit states from responding to public health crises through regulations that treat religious institutions on an equal footing or more favorably than comparable secular institutions, especially when those regulations save lives. Because New York's Covid-19 restrictions do just that, I respectfully disagree. "
The ramifications of Barrett's confirmation in the Supreme Court cannot be denied, suggesting that support for Covid-19 restrictions has shifted since Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death in the Conservative majority.
The hashtag #AmyCovidBarrett started a trend on social media following the verdict that once again called for President-elect Joe Biden to expand the court upon taking office.
So SCOTUS decided essentially against what is happening in the best interest of the state and in the broader sense in the public interest. Let the religious zealots determine what is best. Nice job #AmyCovidBarrett. Let's hope Biden adds to the court. It's time.
– Eric Slater (@ericsslater) November 26, 2020
#AmyCovidBarrett ruled that religious organizations have the right to spread disease to all populations without disability.
There is no place for a religious extremist / absolutist in the judiciary of a liberal democratic republic.
– blackeyedSusan (@SusanBlackeyed) November 26, 2020
#amycovidbarrett Will make many people sick or killed. Even those who don't practice religion. https://t.co/UYGOIpNoMK
– Rebekah Kelley (@ rkelley79ma) November 26, 2020
What a really terrible decision. Justice Sotomayor's dissent in this case, as in the prison case, and that of Justices Ginsburg & Kagan in the COVID voting cases, will be the written record of how 4 SCOTUS judges valiantly tried to win the nation from this pandemic rescue. https://t.co/vbPn9z1ysZ
– Sherrilyn Ifill (@Sifill_LDF) November 26, 2020
Alan is a New York-based writer, editor, and news junkie.