A Brooklyn federal judge on Friday denied a request by the Diocese of Brooklyn to block new state coronavirus restrictions that limit capacity at some churches in the borough.
The ruling by Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis stemmed from the lawsuit brought against Gov. Andrew Cuomo by the diocese, which claims their First Amendment rights are being violated by the restrictions affecting coronavirus hotspots in swaths of Brooklyn and Queens.
In denying the diocese’s request for a preliminary injunction as the court case proceeds, Garaufis acknowledged the state mandates harm religious groups.
But if the rules help prevent a new round of coronavirus infections, it would not be in the public interest to block them, the judge said.
“In fact, if the court issues an injunction and the state is correct about the acuteness of the threat currently posed by hotspot neighborhoods, the result could be avoidable death on a massive scale like New Yorkers experienced in the spring,” Garaufis wrote.
The restrictions imposed by Cuomo on Oct. 6 limit capacity in houses of worship that are in state-designated coronavirus zones.
Churches in the “red zone,” the state’s most restrictive, would be limited to 10 people maximum.
Garaufis wrote in his decision that it was clear the state’s restrictions had been “guided by science, not a desire to target religious practice.”
The diocese had argued that churches have implemented successful safety measures and there hasn’t been a big increase in cases among its congregants.
“The State has completely disregarded the fact that our safety protocols have worked and it is an insult to once again penalize all those who have made the safe return to Church work,” Nicholas DiMarzio, the Bishop of Brooklyn, had said in a statement.
With Post wires
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