by Heather Clark, Christian News
A federal judge has ruled that the State of New York, while having a valid interest in slowing the spread of COVID-19, must give religious gatherings the same rights as secular industries in its reopening plan. He also opined that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio gave “preferential treatment” to mass protests over the death of George Floyd by supporting the crowds while maintaining restrictions on the size of religious gatherings.
“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,” wrote Judge Gary Sharpe, nominated to the bench by then-President George W. Bush, on Friday.
“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,” he said.
Two Roman Catholic priests and three members of an Orthodox Jewish synagogue had sued Cuomo and De Blasio, as well as Attorney General Letitia James, for restrictions on religious gatherings that they said burdened their free exercise of religion.
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