A federal judge on Friday ruled that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Attorney General Letitia James "exceeded" their executive authority by restricting worship services while condoning mass protests as the state slowly reopens from coronavirus lockdown.
Earlier this month, two Catholic priests and a trio of Orthodox Jewish parishioners filed a lawsuit after large protests and looting occurred in New York City following the death of George Floyd.
U.S. District Judge Gary Sharpe granted the group a preliminary injunction prohibiting New York from enforcing its coronavirus restriction on religious services.
Sharp ruled that de Blasio "actively encouraged participation in protests and openly discouraged religious gatherings" simultaneously. He said the disparity could have easily been avoided.
"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," the judge ruled. "They could have also been silent. But by acting as they did, Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio sent a clear message that mass protests are deserving of preferential treatment."
Thomas More Society Special Counsel Christopher Ferrara lauded the court's decision, calling Gov. Cuomo's orders a "sham."
"Suddenly, the limit on ‘mass gatherings' was no longer necessary to ‘save lives.' Yet they were continuing to ban high school graduations and other outdoor gatherings exceeding a mere 25 people," Ferrara told Fox News. What this kind of regime really meant in practice is freedom for me, but not for thee."
As a result of Judge Sharp's order, Cuomo, de Blasio, and James are prohibited from enforcing indoor gathering restrictions against religious services that are "greater than imposed for Phase 2 industries."