A federal judge on Friday allowed Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to move forward with new restrictions on gatherings at synagogues and other houses of worships, finding that the rules did not violate the free exercise of religion for Orthodox Jews.
The ruling in federal court in Brooklyn came after Agudath Israel of America, a national Orthodox Jewish organization, sued Mr. Cuomo this week over an executive order detailing restrictions to address rising coronavirus cases in neighborhoods with large populations of Orthodox Jews.
After an emergency hearing on Friday, the judge declined to temporarily block the executive order ahead of three Jewish holidays over the weekend. She said she sympathized with the order’s impact on the Orthodox Jewish community, but rejected the argument that Mr. Cuomo had unconstitutionally targeted a religious minority.
“How can we ignore the compelling state interest in protecting the health and life of all New Yorkers?” said Judge Kiyo A. Matsumoto of Federal District Court in Brooklyn.
When announcing the executive order, Mr. Cuomo set new capacity limits for houses of worship. In zones with the highest positivity rates, houses of worship would be limited to 25 percent capacity or a maximum of 10 people, while those in a less severe hot spot could have 50 percent capacity.
Lawyers for Agudath Israel, an umbrella group with affiliated synagogues around the country, argued that the new rules were unconstitutional because they prevented Orthodox Jews from exercising their religion. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn also filed a similar lawsuit against Mr. Cuomo on Thursday.
The judge’s decision means that Mr. Cuomo can impose the new restrictions as the lawsuit progresses.
Source: Read Full Article