A federal judge has blocked a religious group’s efforts to quash Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s latest restrictions on large gatherings in Covid-19 hot spots in New York City.
On Friday, Judge Kiyo Matsumoto of Federal District Court in Brooklyn denied Agudath Israel of America’s request for a temporary restraining order against Cuomo’s executive order, the New York Times reported.
That order limits the number of people who can congregate in houses of worship in areas where Covid-19 cases are on the rise, in addition to mandating that nonessential businesses and schools in those areas also close. Matsumoto’s ruling paved the way for the order to go into effect on Friday.
Agudath Israel of America, a national Orthodox Jewish organization, filed a lawsuit against Cuomo last week arguing that his executive order to limit religious gatherings was unconstitutional. But Matsumoto disagreed with the group in her ruling.
“How can we ignore the compelling state interest in protecting the health and life of all New Yorkers?” said Matsumoto as she delivered her decision.
Lawyers for Agudath Israel argued that Orthodox Jews are disproportionately affected by Cuomo’s order because they are prohibited from driving during religious holidays and cannot travel to synagogues in neighborhoods with fewer restrictions.
Lawyers for the state argued that acknowledging religious gatherings have a higher risk of infection doesn’t violate the Constitution.
“The First Amendment’s protections do not require that the government ignore reality and common sense,” a lawyer for the state wrote in a court filing.
Agudath Israel of America’s lawsuit is one of several filed in the wake of Cuomo’s lockdown order: Both the Diocese of Brooklyn and a Midwood law firm filed suits claiming that the new restrictions are unconstitutional.
Cuomo’s order is meant to address a surge of coronavirus cases in Brooklyn neighborhoods like Borough Park, Midwood, and Sheepshead Bay. Some areas in New York City had infection rates of around 8 percent, officials said. [NYT] — Akiko Matsuda