Supreme Court smacks down anti-religious Covid regs floated by Democratic NJ Gov. Murphy
For all the misery it has caused, the pandemic has brought into sharp relief the ugly tendency of power-mad Democrats to grab power and asset it over their constituents.
To that end, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy made one of the silliest comments of this health crisis.
In mid-April, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson interviewed Murphy about his state’s coronavirus restrictions, and asked, “The Bill of Rights, as you well know, protects Americans’ rights – enshrines their right to practice their religion as they see fit and to congregate together to assemble peacefully. By what authority did you nullify the Bill of Rights in issuing this order? How do you have the power to do that?”
Murphy answered “That’s above my pay grade, Tucker. I wasn’t thinking of the Bill of Rights when we did this. … We looked at all the data and the science and it says people have to stay away from each other. That is the best thing we can do to break the back of the curve of this virus, that leads to lower hospitalization and ultimately fatalities.”
“We have to find a different way to worship,” the governor said later in the session.
Well, despite that, New Jersey has the highest death rate in the country. And the U.S. Supreme Court has been inclined to block government from imposing on religious services.
In the past couple of weeks, the high court has rejected limitations on religious services imposed by handful of states. As Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in an opinion after the court smacked down New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s crackdown on worship services, “Government is not free to disregard the First Amendment in times of crisis.”
Gov. Murphy got that lesson Tuesday.
.@GovMurphy has trampled our rights, killed our economy & failed our most vulnerable. Thanks to the US Supreme Court for stepping up when our Democrat state legislature consistently lays down. Time to take back NJ. https://t.co/B8aHE4kGn7
— Douglas Steinhardt (@DSteinhardtEsq) December 16, 2020
Last month Murphy issued an executive order declaring that capacity could not exceed 25 percent and certain indoor gatherings, including religious services/celebrations, weddings and funerals.
A district court judge endorsed partial shutdown.
But as Christopher Ferrara of the Thomas More Society, which represented a New Jersey priest and a rabbi fighting the regulations, explained, “Under Murphy’s executive orders in New Jersey, houses of worship are limited to 25% capacity, while Costco, Walmart, factories, schools, and other venues all get better treatment.”
“What is particularly significant in this case is that the high court is not only recognizing the error of outright bans or virtual bans on houses of worship which were at issue in Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo in New York and Harvest Rock v. Newsom in California, but also acknowledges that the disparately applied capacity percentage limits also violate the Free Exercise clause.”
In a one-paragraph order, the Supreme Court vacated the lower court’s ruling and shipped the case back for reconsideration in light of its overruling Cuomo.
SCOTUS granted a NJ church and synagogue injunctive relief from @GovMurphy's pandemic restrictions on houses of worship after religious leaders protested against orders requiring congregants to wear masks during services.https://t.co/RGkCszJEeo
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) December 16, 2020
“We are getting a very clear message from the United States Supreme Court that government cannot set up any rules that apply to places of worship, or worship activities, but not to other, comparable secular activities,” Ferrara said in a statement. “This is the very crux of religious discrimination and a blatant abuse of the United States Constitution and its Amendments.”
Besides New York and New Jersey, the Supreme Court has quashed similar restrictions imposed in California and Colorado.