The unsigned opinion by the nation’s highest court got it wrong, insisting that restrictions placed on religious gatherings imposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in New York’s COVID hot spots must be nullified, for they violate the First Amendment.
The dissent by the Bronx’s Sonia Sotomayor got it right. The rules, capping gatherings at 10 people or less, are actually more generous for faith-based institutions than for any other type: “New York treats houses of worship far more favorably than their secular comparators.” How on Earth can that be an offense to the guaranteed freedom to exercise religion? The majority has no answer.
Nor do they have a compelling reply to Chief Justice John Roberts’ dissent, which points out that since churches and synagogues filed their challenges to New York’s rules, the ground shifted. “None of the houses of worship identified in the applications is now subject to any fixed numerical restrictions … The Governor might reinstate the restrictions. But he also might not. And it is a significant matter to override determinations made by public health officials concerning what is necessary for public safety in the midst of a deadly pandemic.”