WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court placed religious freedom before pandemic precautions Wednesday night, temporarily blocking recent rules in New York that severely restricted gatherings at houses of worship in areas hit hardest by COVID-19.
The court's new, more conservative majority ruled 5-4 that Gov. Andrew Cuomo's limits on churches, synagogues and other houses of worship to 10 or 25 worshipers in hard-hit regions appeared to violate the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause.
"Even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten," the court's unsigned majority opinion said. "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."