New York, COVID, And The Supreme Court.

(map is representative and not an actual map of COVID rates in New York.)

On November 25, 2020, the day before Thanksgiving, the United States Supreme Court released its decision in the case of ROMAN CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF BROOKLYN, NEW YORK v. ANDREW M. CUOMO, GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK.

The case grew out of restrictions placed on religious institutions and the number of people that could gather at their places of worship.

New York was using a color coded system to indicate the level of infections within the state. If an area was in an orange or red area, stricter regulations on gatherings were imposed.

In the 5-4 decision, the justices ruled that the restrictions placed on religious institutions were a violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendment. The violation of the First Amendment is pretty easy to see as the State was singling out religious institutions for regulations that were not placed on other, secular institutions.

The violation of the Fourteenth Amendment comes into play because the State of New York was treating people differently given the same set of circumstances.

Immediately after the decision, Governor Cuomo accused the Supreme Court of political bias.

Mr. Cuomo accused the court of partisanship, suggesting the ruling reflected the influence of the three conservative justices who have been nominated by President Trump in the past four years.

“You have a different court, and I think that was the statement that the court was making,” Mr. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, said on Thursday. “We know who he appointed to the court. We know their ideology.”

The ACLU attacked the decision as well:

Critics of the court’s decision contended that Mr. Cuomo’s actions had not infringed on religious freedom and that the Supreme Court’s ruling could have dangerous public health consequences.

“The freedom to worship is one of our most cherished fundamental rights, but it does not include a license to harm others or endanger public health,” said Daniel Mach, the director for the American Civil Liberties Union’s freedom of religion and belief program.

Cuomo should have actually read the ruling.

While it seems that the Supreme Court was split based upon whether the restrictions were legal, that is not the case. The four dissenting judges opined that as the diocese was no longer under the regulations because COVID cases had declined in the area, the case was moot and need not be decided by the Court. The judges did not disagree with the reasoning of the majority, but only whether case needed to be decided. It is logical to assume that the Court decided the case to try and stem the multiple cases with similar issues from across the country coming their way. With case law now clear, some of those cases will go away.

Without any dissenting opinions on the merits of the case, the Court’s decision was a “practical” 9 – 0 in favor of the diocese.

That’s not “partisan,” that’s a slam dunk.

New York didn’t do themselves any favors when their own lawyers admitted the regulations on churches were different than other places:

From the opinion:

These categorizations lead to troubling results. At the hearing in the District Court, a health department official testified about a large store in Brooklyn that could “literally have hundreds of people shopping there on any given day.” App. to Application in No. 20A87, Exh. D, p. 83. Yet a nearby church or synagogue would be prohibited from allowing more than 10 or 25 people inside for a worship service. And the Governor has stated that factories and schools have contributed to the spread of COVID–19, id., Exh. H, at 3; App. to Application in No. 20A90, pp. 98, 100, but they are treated less harshly than the Diocese’s churches and Agudath Israel’s synagogues, which have admirable safety records.

It certainly seemed that the argument the State was putting forth was failing on the facts.

In addition, if a government is going to restrict a right (such as religious freedom, free speech, right to assemble, etc.,) the restrictions must be the least restricting measures. The Court found the State failed there as well:

Finally, it has not been shown that granting the applications will harm the public. As noted, the State has not claimed that attendance at the applicants’ services has resulted in the spread of the disease. And the State has not shown that public health would be imperiled if less restrictive measures were imposed.

Failing at every direction, Cuomo and the ACLU turned to the only thing left to them – the accusation that the Supreme Court was somehow “biased” or “politicized.” They offer no proof of this as there is no proof to offer. They hope that people will take their word for their claim rather than reading the actual decision where the State gets blown out of the water.

Cuomo should be ashamed of lying to the people of New York. Cuomo’s own actions and inactions have contributed far more to the spread of COVID within New York, yet he constantly blames others for his failings and the failings of the government he leads.

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