The Supreme Court late Wednesday temporarily blocked Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York from implementing capacity limits at places of worship in certain state-designated coronavirus hot spots.
In a 5-4 decision, the supreme court ruled in favor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Orthodox Jewish synagogues that sued the governor over the state-imposed caps in areas declared red and orange zones.
“Even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten,” the unsigned opinion said.
“The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty.”
The court ruling has little impact at this time since the groups that sued are not currently subjected to the attendance limits since they are in the less-restrictive yellow zones.
The houses of worship argued the restrictions, imposed by Cuomo on Oct. 6, violated their religious freedoms under the First Amendment. They also felt they were unfairly facing stricter limitations than essential businesses.
Supreme court newly confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett cast the deciding assenting vote in favor of the religious groups.
Chief Justice John Roberts joined the three liberal justices in dissenting.
“It is a significant matter to override determinations made by public health officials concerning what is necessary for public safety in the midst of a deadly pandemic,” Roberts wrote.