A federal appeals court ruled against Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and knocked down lockdown restrictions they called a violation of free speech rights.
The 2nd Circuit panel ruled on Monday that Cuomo’s order to restrict attendance at religious services in order to help stop the spread of the coronavirus was unconstitutional.
That same court had previously declined to block the order, but its new ruling came in light of the U.S. Supreme Court deciding against Cuomo in late November, saying that his restrictions unfairly targeted religious groups based on political grounds and not on scientific proof.
Cuomo at the time blamed President Donald Trump for the unfavorable ruling.
“You have a different court, and I think that was the statement that the court was making. We know who [President Trump] appointed to the court. We know their ideology,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo was likely referring to Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who had been appointed to the court over objections by Democrats and other critics of the president. While Barrett joined the majority in the 5-4 ruling, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the minority and said in his dissent that the court has no place deciding against orders of public health officials.
The court’s ruling, however, noted that the state of New York allowed other secular events to continue while unfairly restricting religious events.
“It is hard to believe that admitting more than 10 people to a 1,000–seat church or 400-seat synagogue would create a more serious health risk than the many other activities that the State allows,” the decision read.
Cuomo angrily denounced the ruling as inconsequential because the restrictions had already been rescinded, but legal experts noted that the ruling set an important precedent for other pandemic orders in the future.
That Supreme Court ruling was also cited by a California judge in December when he ruled against that state’s Democratic governor and his similar order to restrict houses of worship from meeting in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.