Religious Leaders Sue NY Over COVID Restrictions on Worship Services

Catholic and Jewish leaders filed lawsuits against the state of New York for tightening coronavirus restrictions on religious services, the Washington Examiner reports.

The suits filed Thursday argue that the new restrictions imposed in “red zone” areas of New York City, which are experiencing a surge of coronavirus cases, violate the First Amendment.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo banned groups of more than 10 from gathering if they are located in a red zone. If a group of more than 10 is caught gathering, it can receive a $1,500 fine under the new mandate. In addition, if a person is caught without a mask, they can be fined $1,000.

Jewish leaders, led by the nonprofit Agudath Israel of America, argued that the restrictions single out Jews who are headed into a series of holidays starting on Friday.

“Social distancing, masking, and all health precautions must, of course, be observed,” Rabbi Chaim Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel said in a statement. “However, we think that it is possible to stay safe and at the same time have more than ten people in a Shul building that is meant to hold hundreds.”

Catholic leaders, led by Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, claim in their suit that the 10-person cap “arbitrarily” reduces capacity, even after the diocese followed the state’s previous coronavirus restrictions.

“This religious community will be denied its most fundamental right, the free exercise of religion, for no legitimate reason whatsoever,” the diocese’s attorney Randy Mastro said.

DiMarzio called the restrictions insulting, especially after the Catholic Church helped lead the church on closures in March.

Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio have blamed religious communities for an increase in New York’s coronavirus cases, the Washington Examiner reports.

This week, Cuomo claimed that a lack of mask-wearing in Orthodox communities was the cause of an uptick in cases. He also blamed de Blasio for not cracking down on the violations sooner.

“We know religious institutions have been a problem,” he said on Monday, noting he was prepared to shut down any religious institution that doesn’t follow the rules. “We know mass gatherings are the superspreader events. We know there have been mass gatherings going on in concert with religious institutions in these communities for weeks.”

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