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NY Gov. Cuomo Says Supreme Court Decision Overturning COVID Restrictions for Religious Services Has 'No Practical Effect'

Newsweek logo Newsweek 11/26/2020 Mili Godio
Andrew Cuomo wearing a suit and tie: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a COVID-19 briefing on July 6, 2020 in New York City. According to a COVID-19 legal complaint tracker managed by the law firm Hunton Andrews Kurth, more lawsuits have been filed agains Cuomo than any other U.S. governor since the pandemic began. © David Dee Delgado/Getty New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a COVID-19 briefing on July 6, 2020 in New York City. According to a COVID-19 legal complaint tracker managed by the law firm Hunton Andrews Kurth, more lawsuits have been filed agains Cuomo than any other U.S. governor since the pandemic began.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that the U.S. Supreme Court's Wednesday decision to bar COVID restrictions on religious services in New York has "no practical effect" because the case has "already been moot."

"I think that the Supreme Court ruling on religious gatherings is more or less illustrative of the Supreme Court than anything else," Cuomo told reporters during a Thursday morning teleconference. "It's irrelevant from any practical impact because the zone that they were talking about has already been moved, it expired last week."

The Supreme Court addressed two separate emergency applications, one from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Agudath Israel, an Orthodox Jewish congregation, which claimed that Cuomo was targeting houses of worship in his COVID-19 orders while allowing essential businesses to operate with lesser restrictions.

Cuomo limited gatherings in churches, synagogues and other houses of worship in the state's hardest-hit areas to 10 worshipers in "red zones" or 25 worshipers in slightly less dangerous "orange zones." The court ruled that these limits appeared to violate the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause.

Cuomo, in disagreeing with the decision, noted that the areas in question are no longer in the zones that limit the number of people and says that the decision will therefore have "no practical effect." The churches and synagogues in the Supreme Court application had been previously reclassified into a "yellow zone" by the governor effective on November 20, which allows them to operate at 50 percent capacity.

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Cuomo said that the decision is simply to express the new court's "philosophy in politics."

"[SCOTUS] wanted to make the statement that it's a different court," he said. "That's the statement they're making [...] and that's to be expected. We know who we appointed to the court, we know their ideology."

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

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