July 4, 2020 | MetroVoice | Source |
“A federal judge slapped down a major portion of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo‘s restrictions on religious institutions. The ruling lifted a capacity cap on services as churches, mosques, temples and similar facilities that critics said were extremely unjust.
U.S. District Judge Gary Sharpe issued a preliminary injunction blocking New York from enforcing its prior cap, which limited religious institutions to just 25% of their capacity in Phase 2 of the state’s reopening process and 33% in Phase 4.
Now, religious facilities will face the same 50% indoor capacity limit that restaurants and businesses currently face in New York.
Sharpe also barred the state from enforcing any capacity limit on outdoor gatherings. It wasn’t immediately clear Friday whether his ruling applied to all outdoor events or only religious services.
Attendees of any service, indoor or outdoor, will be required to adhere to the state’s six-foot social distancing rule, Sharpe ruled.
In his ruling, Sharpe noted New York carved out graduation ceremonies from its statewide ban on gatherings of more than 25 people in Phase 3 and 50 people in Phase 4.
He also pointed to comments from Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio that seemed to encourage people to participate in the mass protests that followed the death of George Floyd.
Those actions displayed “preferential treatment” of protests and graduation ceremonies that were not applied equally to religious services, Sharpe noted.
“Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio could have just as easily discouraged protests, short of condemning their message, in the name of public health and exercised discretion to suspend enforcement for public safety reasons instead of encouraging what they knew was a flagrant disregard of the outdoor limits and social distancing rules,” Sharpe wrote.
“They could have also been silent. But by acting as they did, Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio sent a clear message that mass protests are deserving of preferential treatment.”