November 26, 2020

SUPREMES STRIKE DOWN CUOMO’S ANTI-RELIGIOUS COVID LIMITS: In a 5-4 decision that is full of positive implications for First Amendment litigation regarding religious freedom and practice, the Supreme Court late yesterday slapped down New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s restrictions on worship gatherings in targeted areas hit hard by Covid.

The decision acknowledged that the nine Justices on the nation’s highest court “are not public health experts,” but it went on to explain that “even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten. The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty. Before allowing this to occur, we have a duty to conduct a serious examination of the need for such a drastic measure.”

This is big and potentially huuuuge, as a certain prominent American Socialist who likely will not be pleased by it might say. But what is certain is that for those who love the First Amendment as a whole, and especially its guarantees of religious freedom and practice, this decision is something to indeed be thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day 2020.

UPDATE (FROM GLENN): The full opinion is here. Excerpt:

At the same time, the Governor has chosen to impose no capacity restrictions on certain businesses he considers “essential.” And it turns out the businesses the Governor considers essential include hardware stores, acupuncturists, and liquor stores. Bicycle repair shops, certain signage companies, accountants, lawyers, and insurance agents are all essential too. So, at least according to the Governor, it may be unsafe to go to church, but it is always fine to pick up another bottle of wine, shop for a new bike, or spend the afternoon exploring your distal points and meridians. Who knew public health would so perfectly align with secular convenience? As almost everyone on the Court today recognizes, squaring the Governor’s edicts with our traditional First Amendment rules is no easy task. People may gather inside for extended periods in bus stations and airports, in laundromats and banks, in hardware stores and liquor shops. No apparent reason exists why people may not gather, subject to identical restrictions, in churches or synagogues, especially when religious institutions have made plain that they stand ready, able, and willing to follow all the safety precautions required of “essential” businesses and perhaps more besides. The only explanation for treating religious places differently seems to be a judgment that what happens there just isn’t as “essential” as what happens in secular spaces. Indeed, the Governor is remarkably frank about this: In his judgment laundry and liquor, travel and tools, are all “essential” while traditional religious exercises are not. That is exactly the kind of discrimination the First Amendment forbids.

Yep.

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