Friday, October 09, 2020

Catholic and Jewish Organizations Sue New York Governor Over New COVID-19 Restrictions

On Tuesday of this week, New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo announced new restrictions in spots in which clusters of COVD-19 cases have broken out. Areas include parts of Brooklyn and Queens and parts of Broome, Orange and Rockland Counties. The restrictions target mass gatherings and houses of worship, as well as businesses and schools.  In response, two important religious entities-- one Catholic and one Jewish-- have filed separate suits challenging the new Order.

The complaint (full text) in Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, New York v. Cuomo, (ED NY, filed 10/8/2020) reads in part:

The governor now proposes to limit in-person attendance at all "Houses of Worship" to the lesser of 10 people or 25% of church capacity in certain designated geographical areas, and to the lesser of 25 people or 33% of church capacity in others. As applied to the Diocese, whose impacted churches overwhelmingly seat upwards of 500 to 1000 parishioners, the percentage caps ... are rendered wholly illusory, and thus the churches will be placed in the untenable position of limiting attendance at Sunday mass and other fundamental Catholic services such as baptisms, weddings and funerals, to just 10 worshippers in designated "red" zones or just 25 worshippers in designated "orange" zones. Meanwhile, all other essential businesses can remain open without any capacity limitations whatsoever....

ABC7 News reports on the lawsuit. 

The complaint (full text) in Agudath Israel of America v. Cuomo, (ED NY, filed 10/8/2020) alleges in part:

5. Defendant’s Executive Order and the restrictions it contains will disrupt the religious observance of tens of thousands of Orthodox Jews in New York State, depriving them of their religious worship and holiday observance. The Executive Order requires enforcement of its restrictions to begin on Friday, October 9, which is Hoshanah Rabbah, the first of these three holidays.

6. Defendant has imposed these onerous and discriminatory new restrictions despite the fact that even he concedes he has not enforced the existing restrictions on houses of worship that already impose capacity limits and health requirements. Plaintiffs have completely complied with these rules, and Defendant does not contend otherwise.

Courthouse News Service reports on the suit.

UPDATE: Temporary restraining orders were denied in both cases on Oct. 9. See Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 188459.