NEW YORK (AP) — The longtime head of the Roman Catholic Church in Brooklyn said Friday that a ruling by the Supreme Court that barred New York from enforcing certain restrictions on religious services in areas hit hard by the coronavirus is a “good decision” that guarantees constitutional protections for the free exercise of religion.
The high court late Wednesday sided with the Diocese of Brooklyn and other religious organizations in New York state in temporarily barring New York from enforcing the restrictions against the groups. In an unsigned opinion the Supreme Court said the restrictions “single out houses of worship for especially harsh treatment.” The groups said the state action had limited attendance for religious worshippers while other businesses in state-designated red zones could remain open without capacity limits.
“Right now, we see this as a good decision, opening up the understanding that First Amendment rights are much more powerful than the right for somebody to shop,” Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said in an interview with the Associated Press.
DiMarzio also praised the words of Pope Francis, who in a New York Times Opinion piece published on Thursday criticized groups protesting COVID-19 restrictions.
“I think the pope’s words are wonderful. I don’t think we protested. I don’t think we’ve ever negated the rules that were imposed upon us, except we had a difference of opinion on the number of people that could go into a building. That’s a big difference from flaunting the rules, as some congregations have done in Brooklyn and Queens,” he told the AP. “They refused to take precautions. That was not our case. We complied with everything we were asked to do and more.”
“So, I think that it’s a big difference. I don’t think those words of the pope really apply to us – this is not an ideological issue. It’s not anti-government, but it is looking at the First Amendment that people have a right to worship when it’s possible.”
New York City became an early U.S. hot spot of the pandemic and the deadliest with some of the city’s worst-hit areas concentrated in Brooklyn and Queens.
The Diocese of Brooklyn and Agudath Israel of America have churches and synagogues in areas of the two boroughs previously designated red and orange zones. The state had capped attendance at houses of worship at 10 people in red zones and 25 people for orange zones. But those areas are now designated as yellow zones with less restrictive rules neither group challenged.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said that the court’s decision is “irrelevant from any practical impact” given that the restrictions have already been removed. Cuomo also said that the 5-4 ruling, with new Justice Amy Coney Barrett in the majority, is more about demonstrating that the high court has changed its stripes. But DiMarzio disagreed.
“(Cuomo) said the court changed its decision because it’s politically convenient, it has nothing to do with that” DiMarzio said. “The Supreme Court many times changes its position.”
Churches under the Diocese of Brooklyn were disproportionately hit and suffered many losses at the onset of the…
Read More News: Brooklyn bishop hails ruling, says diocese in line with pope