Democratic officials in New York just received a legal blow over their efforts to restrict church gatherings as part of the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to Breitbart, a federal court judge ruled on Friday that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, state Attorney General Letitia James, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio — all Democrats — violated the First Amendment with the order.
A number of conservatives in New York and across the U.S. have noted an apparent double standard as some Democratic leaders have recommended shutting down churches, among other places, while encouraging large groups to protest in communities nationwide.
“Could have also been silent”
In the lawsuit addressed in federal court this week, a group consisting of Catholics and Orthodox Jews addressed this position.
They argued that they were the victims of discrimination as defined in the U.S. Constitution — specifically the First and Fourteenth Amendments — because protests were allowed while even small religious gatherings were not.
U.S. District Judge Gary L. Sharpe agreed with the plaintiffs, as he explained in his written opinion.
“Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio could have just as easily discouraged protests, short of condemning their message, in the name of public health and exercised discretion to suspend enforcement for public safety reasons instead of encouraging what they knew was a flagrant disregard of the outdoor limits and social distancing rules,” the judge wrote.
Alternatively, he argued that they “could have also been silent” on the issue.
“Sent a clear message”
Instead, Sharpe determined that the governor and mayor “sent a clear message that mass protests are deserving of preferential treatment.”
He went on to rule that state officials must allow indoor gatherings at up to 25% of normal capacity and outdoor gatherings with no restrictions. It is worth noting that the judge’s ruling is merely a preliminary injunction.
While officials will be required to abide by his order, at least for now, the case will continue and both sides will be able to present arguments.
The case might just be getting started, but those who want to see church congregations receive as much freedom of assembly as protesters do are sure to see it as a first step in the right direction.