In a win for religious freedom advocates, a federal judge ruled that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) are wrong to limit religious gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic while at the same time supporting mass protests of racial injustice.
What are the details?
U.S. District Judge Gary L. Sharpe issued a preliminary injunction Friday prohibiting Cuomo, his attorney general, and de Blasio from ordering or enforcing any arbitrary limits on church gatherings.
In his decision, Sharp noted that "it is not the judiciary's role to second guess the likes of Governor Cuomo or Mayor de Blasio when it comes to decisions they make in such troubling times, that is, until those decisions result in the curtailment of fundamental rights without compelling justification."
The order effectively states that the New York officials cannot impose any limitation on outdoor gatherings and cannot impose limitations on indoor gatherings out-of-step with phases two and three of the New York's reopening plan.
Under the plan, "essential" businesses are granted 100% occupancy and "nonessential" businesses are granted 50% occupancy, but religious gatherings are confined to 25% occupancy.
"We are pleased that Judge Sharpe was able to see through the sham of Governor Cuomo's 'Social Distancing Protocol' which went right out the window as soon as he and Mayor de Blasio saw a mass protest movement they favored taking to the streets by the thousands," Thomas More Society Special Counsel Christopher Ferrara said in a news release.
The Thomas More Society, a conservative not-for-profit national law firm, represented the group of Catholic priests and Jewish congregants who brought the complaint.
"Suddenly, the limit on 'mass gatherings' was no longer necessary to 'save lives,'" Ferrara added. "Yet they were continuing to ban high school graduations and other outdoor gatherings exceeding a mere 25 people. This decision is an important step toward inhibiting the suddenly emerging trend of exercising absolute monarchy on pretext of public health. What this kind of regime really meant in practice is freedom for me, but not for thee."
Preferential treatment for protests
Limitations on mass gatherings due to COVID-19 seemingly went out the window as mass protests erupted across America following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis over Memorial Day weekend.
In New York, thousands of protesters flocked to the streets day after day without any pushback from Cuomo and de Blasio.
Instead, the aforementioned officials spoke openly in support of New York residents' freedom to protest while still enforcing limitations on other forms of public assembly.
Sharpe, in his ruling, pointed out the hypocrisy, arguing the double standard amounted to "preferential treatment" for the protesters.
"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."
BlazeTV interviewed Ferrara last Friday:
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