In a late-night ruling, Barrett sided with his conservative colleagues in the dispute, while Chief Justice John Roberts joined three liberal judges in a disagreement. The ruling underscores the impact on Barrett’s bench, reflecting the court’s perfect innings.
Last spring and summer, before the death of Justice Ruth Beder Ginsburg, the court split 5-4 on similar cases in California and Nevada, with Roberts and the majority libertarians against houses of worship. Barrett was confirmed to take the seat of Ginsburg in October.
The decision, released just before midnight on Thanksgiving Eve, contains many different opinions and some unusually important language.
In the main, unsigned opinion, the majority ruled in favor of Brooklyn’s Roman Catholic Diocese and America’s Agudath Israel, arguing that the sanctions violated the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause because the rules allowed homes of worship comparatively Secular facilities considered more rigid.
The majority stated that the rules are “far more restrictive than any Kovid-related rules that have come to court before, showing much more stringent, and far more severe than the strict efforts adopted by many other courts because of the epidemic” Has been “necessary to stop the spread of the virus” on the religious services in question.
The restriction on appearance is divided by geographic regions into areas classified as “red” or “orange” areas.
In court papers, Cuomo’s lawyers argued that the restrictions were necessary to help prevent the spread of Kovid-19 and that houses of worship were not treated differently than similar secular businesses. He also said that while the dispute was pending, Cuomo had already removed any restrictions applicable to organizations.
The court stated, “Not only is there no evidence that applicants have contributed to the spread of COVID-19, but there are also many other less restrictive regulations to reduce the risk for those attending religious services Can be adopted. ”
The court said, “The members of this court are not public health experts, and we should respect the judgment of those with special expertise and responsibility in this area.” “But even in an epidemic, the constitution cannot be taken away and forgotten.”
The court said that even though Kyomo may have lifted some restrictions, houses of worship “remain in constant danger” as restrictions can always be restored.
Lower courts sided with Cuomo.
Lawyers for the diocese said in court papers about the justifications that “the epidemic alone cannot justify overbroad, all houses having indefinitely closed orders at the time of worship, that in another time to violate the Constitution Will be found clearly. “
And US Aguth Israel lawyers said the governor specifically targeted Orthodox Jews who “violated their former rules.”
“The governor’s crime-by-religious-union-restrictions have made it impossible for applicants and their members to follow their religious faith,” he argued.
6 opinions in late night rule
In all, the late-night rule consisted of six different opinions.
Justice Neil Gorsukh agreed – not joining any other justice – to explain his vote.
He said other businesses such as bicycle repair shops did not have similar restrictions.
“So, at least according to the governor, it may be unsafe to go to church, but it’s always okay to take another bottle of wine” or “a new bike shop,” Gorsukh wrote.
He was instrumental in arguing a decision taken by Roberts in May, which could reject a request from a church in California to block limitations on the number of people who could attend religious services during an epidemic. .
Gorsuch said the court cited in that decision supports Roberts “cutting the constitution loosely during an epidemic.”
For his part, Roberts said he was in disagreement because “it may well be that such restrictions violate the Free Exercise Clause,” after Cuomo filed his own challenge by religious organizations banning Was revised
Roberts wrote, “Preventing the determination of what is necessary for public safety in the midst of a deadly epidemic by public health officials is an important matter.” .
But Roberts – who often works to keep the court out of the political disorientation and divisive atmosphere dominated by other branches of government – had strong words for Gorsuch’s criticism of dissidents’ arguments.
“They simply reflect the case’s best efforts to fulfill its responsibility under the constitution after careful study and analysis,” he said.
He also explicitly defended his argument in the case since May.
Justice Stephen Breyer, joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, said the rules were designed to “fight rapid spread – and, in many cases, lethal – COVID-19 viruses” and he identified the governor Permitted hot spot where the virus had spread. Breyer noted serious statistics related to the virus, which has infected more than 12 million Americans and is currently growing. “The constitution entrusts the responsibility of the safety and health of the people to the politically accountable authorities of the states primarily,” Breyer wrote.