New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General Letitia James and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio “were exceeded” by their executive limits by limiting worship services and tolerating mass protests as a federal judge said a federal judge that the state continues to reopen restrictions on the coronavirus.
Federal District Judge Gary L. Sharpe issued a preliminary injunction on Friday on behalf of two Catholic priests, Steven Soos and Nicholas Stamos, and a trio of Orthodox Jewish congregants: Elchanan Perr, Daniel Schonborn and Mayer Mayerfeld, in Brooklyn, represented by Thomas More society.
They filed the lawsuit in the Northern District of New York after the mass protests and looting in the Big Apple after George Floyd’s police-related death in May.
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De Blasio had “simultaneous pro-protest / anti-religious meeting messages” when he “actively encouraged participation in protests and openly discouraged religious gatherings and threatened religious faithful,” Sharpe said in his federal order.
“Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio could just as easily have discouraged the protests, less condemned their message, in the name of public health and exercised discretion to suspend the application for reasons of public safety rather than encourage what they knew it was a blatant disregard of the outer limits and rules of social distancing, “added the judge. “They could also have been silent. But by acting as they did, Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio sent a clear message that the mass protests deserve preferential treatment.”
Thomas More Society Special Adviser Christopher Ferrara welcomed the decision and called Cuomo’s executive orders a “farce” that “went out the window as soon as he and Mayor de Blasio saw a mass protest movement that favored thousands of people who took to the streets. “
“Suddenly, the ‘mass meeting’ limit was no longer necessary to ‘save lives,'” Ferrara said in a statement to Fox News. “However, they continued to ban high school graduations and other outdoor gatherings that exceeded 25 people.”
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He added: “This decision is an important step to inhibit the suddenly emerging trend of exercising absolute monarchy in [the] public health pretext. What this type of regime really meant in practice is freedom for me, but not for you. ”
The Justice Department called it “a victory for the religious liberty and civil liberties of New Yorkers.”
“The government cannot discriminate by protecting freedom of expression and the right to assemble while threatening or limiting religious practice; it must protect all the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband.
He continued: “The court’s decision is consistent with the positions and arguments made by the United States Department of Justice in similar documents and letters, including in New York City and elsewhere in the country. The Department of Justice will continue to support people of faith seeking equal treatment against threats and the actions of public officials who discriminate against them based on their religion. The Constitution and our oath to defend and protect it require nothing less. “
As a result of the federal order, Cuomo, James and De Blasio are “obligated and restricted to enforce any indoor gathering limitation” against the houses of worship involved “greater than those imposed on the Phase 2 industries”, provided that participants follow prescribed social norms. distancing
They are also prohibited from “imposing any limitations on outdoor meetings as long as the participants in those meetings meet the social distancing requirements set forth in the applicable executive orders and guidance.”
In his decision, Sharpe points to limits imposed on houses of worship by New York leaders: he still limits houses of worship to 25 percent indoor capacity during Phases 2 and 3 and an outdoor gathering limit of 25 people in Phase 3 locations, and a 10- person collection limit in Phase 1 and 2, while allowing mass protests and other numbers for business and outdoor graduation ceremonies of 150 people.
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Among the many violations cited in the lawsuit, Thomas More notes that Blasio ignored social distancing and the 10-person limit when he did not wear a face mask on June 4 while attending and heading to a massive political rally in Cadman Plaza in Nueva York. Days later, in Williamsburg, a police officer expelled Hasidic Jewish children from a park, enforcing Cuomo and Blasio’s 10-person limit in “non-essential gatherings.”
In April, de Blasio threatened the Jewish community, which had a series of attacks last winter, with arrests and prosecutions for “illegal” mass religious gatherings after police in Williamsburg interrupted Rabbi Chaim Mertz’s funeral.
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“My message to the Jewish community, and to all communities, is that simple: the time for warnings has passed,” de Blasio wrote in a tweet. “I have instructed the New York police to immediately proceed to summon or even arrest those who gather in large groups. It is about stopping this disease and saving lives. Period.”
He was forced to apologize for attacking the Jewish community as a whole, but he duplicated his comments and called it “tough love.”