Nicholas DiMarzio, the seventh Bishop of Brooklyn, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, on Thursday filed a lawsuit in federal court against the state of New York, for violating their First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion. The lawsuit is in response to the state’s executive order that curtails the attendance at Catholic Churches in Brooklyn and Queens in locations where there has been a rise in coronavirus positive testing.
On Friday night, responding to the Catholic Church’s appeal, US District Judge Eric Komitee upheld the governor’s suppression of religious services in churches located in “red” Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods, even though the churches have been obeying the rules and the pandemic has been rising there because of folks who adhere to a different, older faith.
Judge Komitee admitted that the governor had put him in a tight spot, making this a “difficult decision,” after Cuomo had gone on CNN and pointed his finger at Brooklyn Chasidim.
“The governor of New York made it remarkably clear that this order was intended to target a different set of religious institutions,” Komitee wrote in his decision. “Plaintiff appears to have been swept up in that effort despite having been mostly spared, so far at least, from the problem at hand. Nevertheless, the government is afforded wide latitude in managing the spread of deadly diseases,” the judge ruled.
Bishop DiMarzio complained bitterly that “our churches have the capacity to accommodate many worshipers,” saying it was unfair “to reset our attendance capacity to 10 people maximum in the red zone, and 25 people in the orange zone, when we have had no significant cases, impedes our right to worship and cannot stand.”
“The State has completely disregarded the fact that our safety protocols have worked and it is an insult to once again penalize all those who have made the safe return to Church work,” the Bishop said.
Agudath Israel of America also filed a lawsuit in federal court requesting an injunction against Governor Andrew Cuomo’s attendance limits on houses of worship in red zones.
Agudah’s Rabbi David Zwiebel told WABC: “This is something which is very devastating to communities of faith. Why in the world would a large shul with large capacity be treated the same as a small shul?”
A spokesperson for Governor Cuomo did not sound particularly worried, telling WABC: “We get sued virtually every day for virtually every action. We’re focused on reducing the spread in these clusters and saving lives, period.” And, indeed, on Thursday, a federal judge rejected Agudah’s petition and upheld the governor’s decision to shut down Jewish houses of worship in zones where the numbers showed the locals were disregarding the law.
Bishop DiMarzio reiterated his complaint, saying: “We vehemently disagree with the capacity limits being placed on us. They are disrespectful to Catholics who have only been abiding by the rules. We do not agree with such limitations because they completely disregard the fact that our safety protocols have worked.”
In other words, why should the Catholics suffer because the Jews are breaking the law? Welcome to the topsie turvie world of coronavirus America, or, if you’ve kept a grudge since 1492, Auto-da-fé this…