Federal Judge: Andrew Cuomo, Bill de Blasio Violated Religious Freedom

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio listens to questions from reporters in New York City on Nov. 13, 2018. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

U.S. District Judge Gary L. Sharpe handed down a preliminary injunction on Friday against New York officials for violating the First Amendment by shutting down religious services while encouraging Black Lives Matter protests.

Earlier this month, two Catholic priests and three Orthodox Jews came together in a lawsuit against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York Attorney General Letitia James, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, alleging that Democrats were violating their religious liberty under the First Amendment (and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment) by discouraging religious gatherings while joining large crowds of protesters in the streets.

On Friday, a federal judge agreed. While praising the officials for their leadership in fighting the coronavirus, he ruled that they had violated the rights of the plaintiffs in their restrictions on religious services:

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. 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.

The judge ordered that state and local authorities be prevented “from enforcement of any indoor gathering limitations against plaintiffs greater than imposed for Phase 2 industries [25% of capacity] and restraint from enforcement of any limitation for outdoor gatherings against plaintiffs.”

The judge did, however, allow authorities to continue enforcing other social distancing rules.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His new book, RED NOVEMBER, is available for pre-order. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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