(JTA) — A federal court of appeals ruled that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s capacity limits on houses of worship in areas with rising COVID-19 cases constituted a violation of religious liberty.
The Supreme Court last month supported an injunction to Cuomo’s rule that limited attendance to 10 or 25 people depending on the rising rates of infection in certain areas.
The case, brought by the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Agudath Israel of America, an advocacy organization representing haredi Orthodox Jews, was one of the first religious liberty cases to be decided by the court’s new conservative majority. The appeals court ruling was celebrated by Agudath Israel as a victory for religious liberty.
“The courts have clearly recognized that the restrictions imposed by New York State violate the constitutional rights of those seeking to attend religious worship services,” Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, said in a statement Monday.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision is not the last we will hear of this issue. The court returned Agudath Israel’s case to a federal district court judge to decide, under a “strict scrutiny” standard, whether the 25% and 33% limits were constitutional.