Friday, June 26, 2020

Ruling today in Soos v Cuomo

Jason Mazzone

I previously posted on Soos v Cuomo, the lawsuit by two Catholic priests and several Orthodox Jewish congregants challenging New York's continued restrictions on religious gatherings. I suggested that the First Amendment requires the state to explain why state officials have restricted religious gatherings but encouraged mass protests against police violence. I noted also the odd fact that in its initial response to the lawsuit New York failed even to address the issue much less explain the distinctions the state drew. Today the district court granted the plaintiffs' application for a preliminary injunction. The court's rationale is that the plaintiffs are likely to succeed on their claim that the state violated the Free Exercise Clause because in exempting (without discernible justification) certain non-religious activities, the state's purported risk-based regulations were not generally applicable. We'll see what happens in the likely appeal. Meanwhile, another lawsuit, Association of Jewish Camp Operators v. Cuomo, has now been filed, challenging the state's ban on Jewish overnight camps. It, too, makes the argument that New York has favored some expression over others in ways that do not reflect risks of transmission. A hearing is scheduled for next week.

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