U.S. appeals court blocks NY governor’s limits on religious gatherings

The federal appeals court in Manhattan on Monday blocked New York state restrictions on the size of religious gatherings put in place to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

In a 3-0 decision, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, the Orthodox Jewish group Agudath Israel of America and two synagogues in enjoining New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Oct. 6 attendance caps at “houses of worship.”

The governor limited attendance to the lesser of 10 people or 25% capacity in “red” zones where the coronavirus risk was highest, and 25 people or 33% capacity in slightly less risky “orange” zones, even in buildings that seat hundreds.

Circuit Judge Michael Park said the plaintiffs established irreparable harm by showing the restrictions impaired their free exercise of religion.

He also said “no public interest is served by maintaining an unconstitutional policy when constitutional alternatives are available to achieve the same goal.”

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