By Elizabeth Kim
A group of Jewish organizations and the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn are separately suing Governor Andrew Cuomo to stop the state from enforcing attendance limits on house of worship in parts of New York that have been designated for new restrictions due to rising coronavirus cases.
The lawsuits mark an expected and ongoing legal battle spearheaded by religious groups who have decried the governor’s limits on religious services amid the pandemic. On Tuesday, Cuomo called for zoned shutdowns in four virus hotspot regions, including portions of South Brooklyn and Queens, and two suburban communities in Rockland and Orange counties that are home to significant numbers of Orthodox residents. In “red zones,” areas with the highest test positivity, no more than 10 people will be allowed to attend houses of worship.
The complaint by Jewish groups and individuals, which was filed in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, described the state’s rules as “onerous and discriminatory” and a violation of the First Amendment’s Free Exercise clause, which protects citizens’ rights to practice religion as they please. Friday marks the start of three major Jewish holidays where tens of thousands of Orthodox individuals in New York state are expected to gather for prayer, Torah readings and other rituals.
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