A federal appeals court on Monday denied Catholic and Jewish houses of worship’s request to halt the enforcement of New York State restrictions on gatherings due to the Covid-19 pandemic while it considered appeals cases related to the matter.
Eight separate appeals were filed against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who issued an executive order to limit the spread of the coronavirus, which has caused more than 25,000 deaths in the state.
The Jewish and Catholic institutions challenged the order that limits non-essential gatherings based on the severity of the outbreak in each area.
“Red zone” rules:
- Non-essential gatherings must cancel
- Non-essential businesses must close
- Schools must restrict in-person learning
The executive order allows houses of worship to hold services but only at 25% capacity, for a maximum of 10 people. The plaintiffs claim the executive order violates the “Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment,” the appeals court decision states. CNN has reached out to both sets of plaintiffs for comment.
The panel of judges denied the motion for an injunction while an appeal is pending in the case filed by Agudath Israel. The panel also denied the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn’s request for an injunction.
The ruling acknowledged that the executive order “burdens” the plaintiffs’ religious practices, but that the order has “greater or equal impact on schools, restaurants, and comparable secular public gatherings.” The panel said that the order treats the religious institutions “on par with or more favorably” than the secular gatherings.
The decision does not address the plaintiffs’ overall appeals cases -- only their requests to halt the restrictions while the appeals cases are considered. Arguments in the cases may be heard as early as the week of December 14, according to the ruling.