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Nov. 26, 2020, 4:49 a.m. EST

Supreme Court rules that Cuomo can’t limit attendance at New York religious services due to COVID-19

In orders issued shortly before midnight Wednesday, the court ruled in a 5-4 vote

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By Jess Bravin


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The United States Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court blocked New York from imposing strict limits on attendance at religious services to combat Covid-19, with new Justice Amy Coney Barrett casting the pivotal vote to depart from past cases that deferred to state authorities on public-health measures.

In orders issued shortly before midnight Wednesday, the court, in a 5-4 vote, set aside attendance limits that Gov. Andrew Cuomo imposed on houses of worship in areas most severely affected by the coronavirus: 10 people in red zones and 25 in orange zones. Chief Justice John Roberts and three liberal justices dissented.

New York classifies places where coronavirus infections are of increasing severity as yellow, orange or red. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox Jewish organization, alleged that the limits violated their First Amendment rights of religious exercise.

The Supreme Court’s unsigned opinion found that the religious plaintiffs were likely to prevail and, overruling federal courts in New York, suspended the governor’s orders while the litigation proceeds.

An expanded version of this story appears on WSJ.com .

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