Tuesday, November 10, 2020

2nd Circuit Denies Injunction Pending Appeal Of NY Governor's Cluster Zone Limits On Houses of Worship

In Agudath Israel of America v. Cuomo, (2d Cir., Nov. 9, 2020), the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2-1 decision refused to grant an injunction pending appeal to a group of Jewish synagogues and to the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn in a case challenging New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's restrictions on spots in which clusters of COVD-19 cases have broken out. (See prior posting.) The majority said in part:

The Court fully understands the impact the executive order has had on houses of worship throughout the affected zones. Nevertheless, the Appellants cannot clear the high bar necessary to obtain an injunction pending appeal. The challenged executive order establishes zones based on the severity of the COVID-19 outbreaks in different parts of New York. Within each zone, the order subjects religious services to restrictions that are similar to or, indeed, less severe than those imposed on comparable secular gatherings....

Thus, while it is true that the challenged order burdens the Appellants’ religious practices, the order is not “substantially underinclusive” given its greater or equal impact on schools, restaurants, and comparable secular public gatherings.

Judge Park dissented, saying in part:

Here, the executive order does not impose neutral public-health guidelines, like requiring masks and distancing or limiting capacity by space or time. Instead, the Governor has selected some businesses (such as news media, financial services, certain retail stores, and construction) for favorable treatment, calling them “essential,” while imposing greater restrictions on “non-essential” activities and religious worship. Such targeting of religion is subject to strict scrutiny.

Hamodia reports on the decision.