Three Orthodox Jews and two Catholic priests sued New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in federal court on Wednesday for violating their rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
The lawsuit, filed by Orthodox Jews Elchanan Perr, Daniel Schonborn, and Mayer Mayerfeld, along with Catholic priests Steven Soos and Nicholas Stamos, accuses the governor and mayor of using “blatant double standards” when enforcing coronavirus violations against small religious gatherings in comparison to enforcement approaches used with thousands who have taken to the streets to protest the death of George Floyd.
“The COVID-19 related orders purport to be facially neutral, yet fail to prohibit secular activity that endangers the state interest in ‘public health’ equally or to a greater degree than the prohibited religious conduct,” Christopher Ferrara, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told the National Review.
“Why is a large worship gathering deemed more dangerous than a mass protest, full of shouting, arm-waving people in close proximity to one another?”
The lawsuit also highlights incidents in which de Blasio didn’t wear a mask, ignored social distancing, and did not disband a large political gathering that he attended on June 4. In contrast, just days later a small group of Hasidic children playing in a park were forced to leave.