On Thursday, the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn filed a lawsuit in federal court against the State of New York, on the basis of the violation of their fundamental First Amendment right, the free exercise of religion.
A federal judge also ruled against a group of Orthodox rabbis Friday, who filed a lawsuit against New York’s new COVID restrictions.
The federal judge found Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration’s new restrictions do not violate religious freedoms.
Agudath Israel of America, a national Orthodox Jewish organization, sued the governor Thursday over the new restrictions, which force synagogues and other houses of worship in red zones to limit occupancy to 25% capacity or a maximum of 10 people.
“This is something which is very devastating to communities of faith,” Rabbi David Zwiebel of Agudath Israel of America said. “Why in the world would a large shul with large capacity be treated the same as a small shul?”
Other groups in the filing were Agudath Israel of Kew Garden Hills, Agudath Israel of Bayswater, Congregation Zichron Moshe Dov, Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Rabbi Menachem Feifer, Rabbi Aaron Stein and Steven Saphirstein.
The judge declined to issue a temporary restraining order ahead of three Jewish holidays this weekend.
The state argued the new restrictions do not unfairly target the Orthodox Jewish community and it is not a constitutional violation to acknowledge that religious gatherings have a higher risk of spreading the virus.
The judge agreed, stating she could not ignore the compelling state interest in protecting the health and life of all New Yorkers.
Agudath Israel of America called the ruling a “crushing disappointment” and vowed to “regroup” after this weekend’s holiday to “determine our next steps.”
As the state works to lower several coronavirus clusters across New York, many of them are spiking in areas largely dominated by Orthodox Jewish groups who are now battling against the new restrictions.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says his reasoning is simple and is just trying to prevent the spread of the hot spots to other communities.
Orthodox Jews, however, feel they are being unfairly targeted and the reason is also political to suppress their vote for President Donald Trump.
The lockdowns went into effect Friday, with enforcement happening in 20 ZIP codes in Brooklyn, Queens, Rockland County and Orange County. These areas make up 2.8% of the population but the positivity rate in some of the communities has been above 10% for the last two weeks.
Schools and nonessential businesses must close, while restaurants are back to takeout-only. There’s also a limit of 10 people at religious gatherings.
You can find your zone at NYC.gov/covidzone.
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