Jewish group sues Gov. Cuomo over new COVID-19 restrictions

Jewish group sues Gov. Cuomo over new COVID-19 restrictions

10/08/2020

An Orthodox Jewish organization has sued Gov. Andrew Cuomo over new coronavirus restrictions that will limit synagogue capacity and go into effect as three Jewish holidays arrive this weekend, new court papers show.

Agudath Israel of America and some of its Big Apple affiliates argue that the new COVID measures violate their constitutional right to free exercise of religion, a Brooklyn Federal lawsuit from Thursday claims.

On Tuesday, Cuomo announced the new initiative that will close non-essential businesses  and schools in sections of Brooklyn and Queens where COVID-19 cases have been rising.

Restaurants can do take-out only, mass gatherings will be prohibited, and houses of worship will be limited to 25-percent capacity or 10 people.

This all while, Orthodox Jewish people are set to celebrate holidays Hoshanah Rabbah, Shmini Atzeres and Simchas Torah this coming Friday through Sunday at their synagogues for prayer and other rituals, the suit says.

“Forty-eight hours before the onset of these holidays, Defendant Governor Cuomo
issued an Executive Order that singles out and discriminates against all houses of worship— and synagogues in particular — by imposing occupancy and gathering restrictions that make it impossible for Orthodox Jews to comply with both their religious obligations and the Order,” the court paper charge.

The group claims the order “will disrupt the religious observance of tens of thousands of Orthodox Jews in New York state, depriving them of their religious worship and holiday observance,” the court documents show.

The restrictions are “onerous and discriminatory,” toward religious practices compared to secular ones, the suit alleges.

The group is asking for a temporary restraining order and a final injunction overturning the lockdown.

“Defendant has trampled on their constitutional right to the Free Exercise of Religion, an injury that cannot be remedied with a later money judgment,” the suit charges.

Rich Azzopardi, senior advisor to the governor, said “We’ve been sued virtually every day for every action taken.

“We’re concentrating on reducing the virus in these hot spots and saving lives, period.”

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