Plaintiffs vs Gov. Cuomo: Agudath Israel Files Suit Against Shul Restrictions in New York State

October 8, 2020 | כ’ תשרי תשפ”א |  Source

“NEW YORK (Agudath Israel of America)  Agudath Israel of America filed a lawsuit on Thursday, October 8, 2020, in federal court, asking for a temporary restraining order to bar the State of New York from enforcing its limits on house of worship attendance in certain areas of the state. The limits, announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo just two days ago, would cap Shul and other houses of worship attendance in so-called “red zones” to ten individuals.

The memorandum argues that the Executive Order’s restrictions unconstitutionally discriminate against religious practice while simultaneously permitting comparable secular conduct. Moreover, the restrictions violate Free Exercise rights because they appear to target conduct due to their religious motivation.

With Hoshanah Rabbah, Shemini Atzeres, and Simchas Torah holidays beginning tomorrow, October 9th, these limits would, according to just one of the points made in the lawsuit, disrupt the religious observance of tens of thousands of Orthodox Jews, “depriving them of their religious worship and holiday observance.” This is because, for example, in a synagogue the size of co-plaintiff Agudath Israel of Madison, “the capacity limits would require over twenty such services on Friday morning to serve the entire congregation. That is simply impossible.”

The lawsuit also contends that although the caps apply to all house of worship, and thereby discriminates against all religions, the order disproportionally impacts the religious services of Orthodox Jews who cannot drive to a synagogue out of a “red zone” on Shabbos or holidays such as Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah.

The filing requested that the court – in light of the holidays beginning tomorrow – immediately grant a temporary restraining order (TRO) preventing the state government from enforcing the new limits, as well as declaring the executive order unconstitutional.”


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