Religion, Pandemics, and the Supreme Court

As everyone is aware, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling issued an injunction against enforcement of New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s color-coded occupancy restrictions that managed to capture houses of worship.  If in the red zone, ten people was the maximum and if the orange zone, 25 people.  This was to take effect and be enforced despite the occupancy capacity of the church or synagogue, established social distancing protocols which the churches enforced, and the wearing of masks while in the house of worship.  Describing the ruling as “moot and pointless,” Cuomo suddenly had a change of heart and adjusted the color codings as the case was proceeding to the Supreme Court.

Of course, one has to ask why he did so.  Did things suddenly change in these areas prompting a change in color-coded status?  Or, more likely, did Cuomo’s legal advisers tell him he was likely to lose?

The ramifications of this decision are important since they are the first where the Supreme Court intervened and stopped a governmental action to prevent the spread of the Wuhan flu.  Of course, in almost knee-jerk reflexive action, the Left pounced on the decision and decried the fact that Barrett had replaced the walking corpse known as Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  The bearded bard of the New York Times– perhaps the most stupid person ever to wear the title of Nobel laureate- Paul Krugman weighed in and described the actions as condoning a religious organization “…dumping neurotoxins into a public reservoir.”

Perhaps, Krugman should stick to telling us how great Keynesian economics is rather than discussing religious freedom, the Supreme Court, and how viral transmission occurs.  He, like others on the Left, seem to believe that by religious adherents wanting to and attending a religious service is tantamount to people dumping neurotoxins in the water despite the fact that not a single case of Covid can be traced to these churches all the while the attendees are doing everything the “experts” tell us to do.  Either the “experts” are wrong, or in this case, there is an animus towards religious exercise.  I suspect the former is half right and the latter the real culprit.

While the Left is singling out the presence of Barrett on the Court and the reason for the 5-4 decision, they leave out other factors that show that might not be the case.  Everyone is rightfully down on Roberts for casting his vote with the liberals in this case, but that is just Roberts being Roberts: cowering under his robes by refusing to address the bigger question.  In his case, he used the excuse of Cuomo’s reclassification to essentially consider the case “moot.”  But, he further stated, “…numerical capacity limits of 10 and 25 people…do seem unduly restrictive…and it may well be that such restrictions violate the Free Exercise Clause.”  Gee, you think?

Breyer, resident pompous-ass of the Court, stated: “Whether, in present circumstances, those low numbers violate the Constitution’s Free Exercise Clause is far from clear…”  But that statement leaves open the possibility that even a jerk like Breyer is at least willing to entertain the idea that these government dictates are violations of the Free Exercise Clause.

Now it just may be that these are just words on paper on the part of Breyer and Roberts and that should a similar case come before the Court with all the earmarkings of a real case- cert petitions, briefing documents, amicus briefs, and oral argument- that Breyer will side with the government restrictions and Roberts will tie himself in legal pretzels siding with the liberals while trying to make himself seem “reasonable.”  He may even throw in the word “precedence” in an opinion- if he even pens anything- or perhaps even question the “standing” of someone. Sometimes his silence speaks louder than his words.

Whatever the future holds, in contradiction to the Leftist press of which Krugman is a member, on paper at least, there are seven- not five- Justices at least willing to hear the arguments and test the boundaries.  Five Justices had the intestinal fortitude to call out Cuomo for what his actions were in this case: disparate treatment of houses of worship.  When you gut the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause- even temporarily in the interests of containing a virus (an open-ended affair with no finite conclusion until it is over…whenever), you rip out the soul of the country.

The Free Exercise Clause is included in the FIRST Amendment for a reason.  It is a fundamental right upon which this country was founded.  The Pilgrims, Catholics, and the Quakers did not settle in the New World seeking riches and fame.  They were fleeing religious persecution in their home countries.  If the Supreme Court ever sided with government restrictions on the Free Exercise Clause, they are no better than the colonial powers of Europe from which people fled.


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