“If the court orders the decision and the state is correct in the urgency of the threat currently threatened by the hotspots’ neighbors, ”the judge wrote,“ the result could be as massive avoidable death as the people of New York in the spring. “
As the two appeals progressed, in refusing to deny the governor’s order, the divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals relied on the unanimous opinion of Chief Justice Roberts in California. Because restrictions on churches were less severe than comparable secular gatherings, the majority wrote in an unsigned opinion that they did not face constitutional protection of religious freedom.
Judge Michael H. Park disagreed that Mr. Cuomo’s order discriminated against the house of prayer because it allowed businesses such as liquor stores and pet stores to remain open without capacity constraints.
Chief Justice Roberts rejected a similar argument in the California case. The order there, he wrote, “only exempts or more leniently handles different activities, such as the operation of grocery stores, banks and laundries, during which people are neither concentrated in large groups nor remain in close proximity for long periods of time”.
Judge Park responded that the order in the California case, which had also been received in connection with a summary emergency decision, had limited precedent. In addition, he wrote that “it was decided at an early stage of the epidemic when local governments struggled to prevent overloading the health system”.
Asking the Supreme Court to take action, diocesan lawyers have argued that “spacious churches” are safer than many “secular businesses that open without restrictions, such as pet stores, brokerage firms, banks, and bodegas”. According to the Church Newsletter, a one-hour Mass is “shorter than a trip to many supermarkets or big boxes, not to mention 9 to 5 jobs”.
Ms. Underwood replied that religious services pose a particular risk. “Covid-19 has a documented history of religious gatherings that serve as a supraspraying event,” he wrote.