The U.S. Supreme Court Declares the Restrictions Imposed by the New York Government on Free Participation in Religious Services Unlawful

Supreme Court of the United States of America, November 25, 2020, Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, New York v. Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of New York

In a recent ruling of November 25, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court established the unlawfulness of the restrictions imposed by the New York Government on the participation in religious services in areas classified as "orange" or "red" depending on the prevalence of the Covid-19 disease.

The judgment was promoted by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and the Agudath Israel of America, which complained that the emergency measures adopted by the Government to deal with the pandemic violated the principle of free exercise of religion solemnly enshrined in the First Amendment of the American Constitution, limiting attendance at religious services in red and orange zones respectively to 10 and 25 people, regardless of their size and capacity.

For the Supreme Court the strict anti-Covid restrictions imposed on places of worship could not be called "neutral" under the First Amendment, as they proved to be much more severe than the restrictions established for businesses, to which, if defined as "essential", no capacity limit was imposed even in the red zones. It is consequently highlighted that the Government could have adopted less restrictive rules to minimize the risk to those attending religious services, pointing out that «Even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put aside and forgotten».

To read the decision, click here.

For a comment of Prof. E. Chemerinsky, click here.