The Supreme Court’s decision has no “practical effect,” Cuomo says

Andrew Cuomo holds a press conference on the coronavirus at the Red Hall of the Albany State Capitol in New York.

Andrew Cuomo. | Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo through AP / Darren McGee

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo underestimates the significance of the Supreme Court’s decision to block the enforcement of strict access restrictions on religious institutions at Covid hotspots.

“The Supreme Court’s decision on religious gatherings is more illustrative of the Supreme Court than anything else,” Cuomo said in his Thanksgiving morning briefing. – This has no practical impact.

After Wednesday night’s decision, Catholic and Jewish organizations in the Brooklyn neighborhoods brought a challenge that the governor had previously placed in the “red zone” in the fall. According to this classification, congregations of more than 10 people at a time were forbidden.

A majority of 5 to 4 found that the restriction resulted in “different treatment” as religious institutions were subject to stricter regulations than places such as liquor stores and bicycle shops. Chief Justice John Roberts voted with a minority.

All of this comes because the neighborhoods in question are no longer considered red zones and are now subject to a milder 50 percent capacity limit, said Beth Garvey, a Cuomo advisor. And even if the infection rate increases enough to justify the reintroduction of red zone classification, the governor was not completely barred from prescribing certain public health rules.

The decision “noted that certain capacity restrictions were permissible,” Garvey said. Other rules, such as “wearing masks and social distancing, could certainly be enforced” in religious institutions, he said.

“Look, I’m a former altar boy, a Catholic high school, a Catholic high school, Jesuits in college, so I fully respect religion, and if we have time in life, we need that,” Cuomo said. “But we want to make sure we keep people safe at the same time. And we are trying to strike that balance, especially during this festive period. ”

The NYS Catholic Conference, representing the Catholic bishops of the state, described the verdict as “important to religious freedom” but promised to continue working with the state to combat the pandemic.

“While we believe and the Court agreed that the ‘hot zone’ restrictions on religious gatherings were unduly severe, our churches were already enthusiastic partners with the state in protecting the health of our parishes, priesthood, staff, and surrounding communities.” said Communications Director Dennis Poust. “This will continue as the protection of the vulnerable is a life-friendly principle.”