Julie McDonald Commentary: With Freedom Comes Responsibility

Julie McDonald Commentary: With Freedom Comes Responsibility

U.S. Supreme Court Last Wednesday, in a 5-4 decision, the United States Supreme Court struck down New York State’s restrictions on houses of worship in coronavirus hotspots. The lawsuits filed by Roman Catholic and Orthodox Jewish congregations challenged Gov. Andrew Coumo’s limits on how many people can worship, contending they violated their constitutional rights to religious freedom. The governor imposed limits to prevent coronavirus super-spreader events, but the rules applied to churches, synagogues and mosques deemed “non-essential” while not to “essential” services like grocery stores or even pet shops. “The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty,” the majority decision stated. “Even in a pandemic, the constitution cannot be put away and forgotten.” In a concurring opinion, Justice Neil Gorsuch, a Trump appointee, wrote, “It is time — past time — to make plain that, while the pandemic poses many grave challenges, there is no world in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike shops but shutter churches, synagogues and mosques.” Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal minority, while Justice Amy Coney Barrett, appointed recently to replace the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, gave the conservatives a majority. In his dissenting opinion, Roberts said the court acted rashly, as the limits of 10 to 25 people were not unduly restrictive. “It is a significant matter to override determinations made by public health […]

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