Cuomo’s Covid Limits on Religious Gatherings Tossed by Judge

New York state limits on religious gatherings in areas with high rates of Covid-19 infections were blocked by a federal judge in Brooklyn, after the U.S. Supreme Court recently sided with churches and synagogues challenging such measures.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had last year ordered limits on indoor prayer services to 10 people in areas where the virus was spreading fastest and to 25 people in other areas within hot spots. U.S. District Judge Judge Kiyo Matsumoto, who had rejected an October lawsuit by Jewish leaders who claimed the restrictions were unconstitutional, reversed her decision on Tuesday and issued a permanent injunction against the state.

Rabbis, synagogue leaders and the national Orthodox Jewish group Agudath Israel had argued in their suit that Cuomo was singling out Jews during their religious holidays. A second complaint by the Roman Catholic Dioceses of Brooklyn argued the restrictions violated religious-freedom rights and unfairly targeted churchgoers even as the state permitted the operation of businesses deemed essential, including grocery stores and takeout restaurants.

In November, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Orthodox Jewish synagogues. The high court granted their requests for a court order against enforcement of the limitations pending the outcome of a decision by the federal appeals court in Manhattan, which sent the case back to Matsumoto on Dec. 28.

In her decision Tuesday, Matsumoto said she’d previously allowed a preliminary halt to enforcement and was now ordering a permanent injunction. She also cited a Feb. 5 Supreme Court ruling that ordered California to allow indoor worship services to resume for a group of churches that sued, easing restrictions that officials said were needed to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

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