Cuomo blames Trump justice for Supreme Court Covid-19 decision on NY churches

Josh Marcus
Donald Trump and the newly sworn-in Supreme Court Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett (Getty Images)
Donald Trump and the newly sworn-in Supreme Court Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett (Getty Images)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo blamed the new, more conservative composition of the Supreme Court for striking down his Covid restrictions on houses of worship this week. Before the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the appointment of the conservative Amy Coney Barrett, the Court had allowed similar restrictions in other states.

“You have a different court, and I think that was the statement that the court was making,” Mr Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, told The New York Times on Thursday. “We know who he appointed to the court. We know their ideology.”

Late on Wednesday night, the high court ruled five to four that the governor’s restrictions, which limited attendance at houses of worship to 10 or 25 people in areas with the highest infection rates, violated the freedom of religion.

The challenge came from the Roman Catholic diocese in Brooklyn, New York, as well as two synagogues and an Orthodox Jewish association. Subsequent changes have rendered the restrictions in the suit moot, but it’s significant nonetheless because it demonstrates the impact of the newly appointed Justice Barrett.

All three Trump appointees to the court — Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Ms Barrett — voted for striking down the decision.

“It is time — past time — to make plain that, while the pandemic poses many grave challenges, there is no world in which the Constitution tolerates colour-coded executive edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike shops but shutter churches, synagogues and mosques,” Justice Gorsuch wrote.

Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court’s remaining liberals on the dissenting side, who argued that the restrictions don’t violate religious liberty.

“The Constitution does not forbid states from responding to public health crises through regulations that treat religious institutions equally or more favourably than comparable secular institutions, particularly when those regulations save lives,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote. “Because New York’s Covid-19 restrictions do just that, I respectfully dissent.”

The decision was equally significant because it showed how far apart some American Catholics sit from Pope Francis when it comes to Covid rules. The head of the church authored a Thursday New York Times op-ed urging people to embrace the common good and approving of government coronavirus measures in that spirit.

“Yet some groups protested, refusing to keep their distance, marching against travel restrictions — as if measures that governments must impose for the good of their people constitute some kind of political assault on autonomy or personal freedom!” the Pope wrote.

“Looking to the common good is much more than the sum of what is good for individuals. It means having a regard for all citizens and seeking to respond effectively to the needs of the least fortunate.”

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