US Supreme Court suspends toughest restrictions on public worship in New York

The most stringent coronavirus restrictions on public worship in New York are a violation of religious freedom, the US Supreme Court said Wednesday night.

The state had forbade the attendance of more than 10 people at religious services in areas designated “red zones”, and 25 people in “orange zones.”

Justice Neil Gorsuch said: “It is time — past time — to make plain that, while the pandemic poses many grave challenges, there is no world in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike shops but shutter churches, synagogues and mosques”.

While the numeric limits are suspended, the less onerous limit of keeping houses of worship at 50% capacity remains in place.

Welcoming the ruling, the Bishop of Brooklyn, whose diocese was a plaintiff in the suit, said that religious worship should be considered an essential service during the coronavirus pandemic.