Just a day after the Diocese of Brooklyn announced a lawsuit against Gov. Andrew Cuomo for violation of religious freedom, a judge upheld his decision to limit capacity for Mass attendance in COVID-19 hotspots.
When Cuomo announced the creation of the Cluster Action Initiative, the capacity permitted in places of worship was reduced to 10 people maximum in the red zone, 25 people in the orange zone and 50 percent in the yellow zone.
After the decision was made by U.S. District Judge Eric Komitee, Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio shared his disappointment.
“We are seeking what is just and we have kept parishioners safe and will continue to do so,” DiMarzio said. “Thus, there is no reason for this latest interference with our First Amendment right to celebrate Mass together, so we will continue to press the courts and our elected officials to end it as soon as possible.”
He said that the Diocese of Brooklyn is left with no choice but to abide by the capacity restrictions.
“As the leader of the Diocese of Brooklyn, I have a sacred duty to spiritually provide for all parishioners, mothers, fathers, and our children who attend church,” he said. “We filed this lawsuit in the name of the 1.5 million Catholics who worship in our Diocese, who celebrate Mass in 33 languages, and come from a diverse tapestry of ethnicities, races, and nationalities so that we could all keep our right to pray in church as one community of believers. Last night’s initial decision is a sad day for our Church community, but we will not let it deter us from our faith.”
During an interview with CNN on Oct. 9, Cuomo said the cluster is predominantly in ultra-orthodox communities.
“The Catholic schools are closed because they happen to be in that cluster, but the issue is with that ultra-orthodox community,” he said. “This is not a matter of religious freedom, right? I don’t care if you’re Roman Catholic, you’re Jewish, you’re Muslim, you’re an atheist. You have to follow the rules of the state, the laws of the state.”
Judge Komitee admitted it was a difficult decision to limit capacity in Catholic churches, according to the New York Daily News.
“The governor of New York made it remarkably clear that this order was intended to target a different set of religious institutions,” Komitee said. “Plaintiff appears to have been swept up in that effort despite having been mostly spared, as far at least, from the problem at hand. Nevertheless, the government is afforded wide latitude in managing the spread of deadly diseases.”