Supreme Court Overturns NY Cuomo’s Coronavirus Restrictions on Houses of Worship

The US Supreme Court has overturned New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s coronavirus restrictions on houses of worship, preventing the state from enforcing limits on attendance at religious services.

The decision was reached by a 5-4 ruling on Wednesday night, with recently-confirmed Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett proving to be a decisive vote on overruling the restrictions. Bush administration appointee John Roberts joined progressive judges in voting to allow Cuomo to restrict attendance at religious services.

The ruling justices issued a majority opinion which identified the religious restrictions as a violation of the First Amendment not otherwise applied to “essential” businesses.

Cuomo’s 10 and 25-person occupancy restrictions were decided to “single out houses of worship for especially harsh treatment,” with justices pointing to a lack of restrictions on other institutions. Catholics of the Diocese of Brooklyn and Orthodox Jews had united in a lawsuit challenging the restrictions, which New York has recently sought to walk back of its own accord. Andrew Cuomo had applied no such restrictions to arbitrary businesses allowed to open, such as acupuncture and nail salons. Meanwhile, religious organizations have been required to turn away worshipers at their doors.

It’s not up to governors to dictate to American citizens whether or not they can attend religious services. Some things are simply best determined by personal conscience, as opposed to governmental mandates.