A federal judge ruled that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General Letitia James, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio “exceeded” their executive limits by limiting worship services and condoning mass protests as the state continues to reopen from coronavirus restrictions.
U.S. District Judge Gary L. Sharpe issued a preliminary injunction Friday on behalf of two Catholic priests — Steven Soos and Nicholas Stamos — and a trio of Orthodox Jewish congregants — Elchanan Perr, Daniel Schonborn, and Mayer Mayerfeld — in Brooklyn. They are represented by the Thomas More Society.
They filed the suit in the Northern District of New York after mass protests and looting occurred in the Big Apple following George Floyd’s police-related death in May.
Sharpe said De Blasio had “simultaneous pro-protest/anti-religious gathering messages” while he “actively encouraged participation in protests and openly discouraged religious gatherings and threatened religious worshipers.”
“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,” Sharpe added.
Thomas More Society special counsel Christopher Ferrara, who represents the plaintiffs, said the state was conducting an “experiment in absolute monarchy” and called on the court to block the “unconstitutional executive orders and their prejudicial enforcement.”
“This decision is an important step toward inhibiting the suddenly emerging trend of exercising absolute monarchy on [the] pretext of public health. What this kind of regime really meant in practice is freedom for me, but not for thee,” Ferrara said in response to Friday’s order.