New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling favoring religious organizations in a dispute over COVID-19 restrictions, “irrelevant” and not “final” while arguing that the decision is really more of a statement on the court’s new conservative bent.
“They wanted to make a statement that it’s a different court. That’s the statement they’re making, I understand that. And that’s to be expected,” Cuomo said during a Thanksgiving Day call, alluding to the impact of the recent addition of Justice Amy Coney Barrett on the bench without calling her by name.
“We know who we appointed to the court. We know their ideology. It’s irrelevant from a practical impact because the zone that they were talking about has already been moved. It expired last week. I think this was really just an opportunity for the court to express its philosophy and politics,” he said.
In a 5-4 ruling Wednesday the high court temporarily blocked New York’s COVID-19 restrictions on houses of worship, arguing that they “strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty.”
The court said that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Agudath Israel of America are likely to succeed in their arguments that the restrictions violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment and that they would cause irreparable harm. The groups had sued Cuomo over his executive order limiting worship gatherings to 10 people for those in red zones and 25 for those in orange zones, Christian Post Reported.
Cuomo argued on Thursday that the dispute isn’t settled.
“The decision isn’t final in the first place right. It goes back to the Second Circuit Appeals Court so it’s not even a final legal position. Second, it didn’t affect our mass gathering rules that 25%, 33 etc. So it didn’t mention those. It didn’t mention the overall limits. I think the basic point is you know why does the court rule on an issue that is moot unless — and which they had just decided several months before in other cases which presented the same argument — why rule on a case that is moot and come up with a different decision than you did several months ago on the same issue? You have a different court and I think that was the statement that the court was making,” he argued.
He further noted that while he values the role of the church in society, there is also a need to protect public health amid the pandemic.
“In terms of religious gatherings, look, I’m a former altar boy. Catholic grammar school, Catholic high school, Jesuit college. So I fully respect religion and if there’s a time in life when we need it, the time is now, but we want to make sure we keep people safe at the same time. That’s the balance we’re trying to hit, especially through this holiday season and the coming Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, etc. celebrations,” he said.