Federal judge rules in favor of COVID-19 religious restrictions in Brooklyn Diocese lawsuit

By Larry McShane, New York Daily News on

Published in Religious News

NEW YORK - A Brooklyn federal judge offered sympathy but no support for a Diocese of Brooklyn lawsuit seeking to avoid state-imposed COVID-19 restrictions on Mass attendance.

U.S. District Judge Eric Komitee, in a six-page Friday night ruling, upheld Gov. Andrew Cuomo's crackdown on religious services in several sections of Brooklyn and Queens that recorded significant upticks in the number of COVID-19 cases.

Under the new order that took effect Tuesday, gatherings at houses of worship and schools are capped at 10 people in hot-spot neighborhoods.

Komitee called it a "difficult decision," noting Cuomo's Friday appearance on CNN, where the governor flatly said the problem was linked to the "ultra-Orthodox" Hasidic community.

"The governor of New York made it remarkably clear that this Order was intended to target a different set of religious institutions," wrote Komitee. "Plaintiff appears to have been swept up in that effort despite having been mostly spared, as far at least, from the problem at hand.

"Nevertheless, the government is afforded wide latitude in managing the spread of deadly diseases," Komitee concluded.


The Brooklyn judge suggested the diocese could apply for a preliminary injunction in light of the governor's comments.

Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said Saturday that the diocese will continue its legal battle to reopen churches for larger gatherings for its 1.5 million faithful.

"There is no reason for this latest interference with our First Amendment right to celebrate Mass together, so we will continue to press the courts and our elected officials to end it as soon as possible," said DiMarzio. "Last night's decision is a sad day for our church community, but we will not let it deter us from our faith."

The ruling on the Brooklyn Diocese comes a day after a separate federal judge upheld the shutdown on Jewish houses of worship, after several groups filed their own lawsuit against Cuomo.

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