Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo and Its Rippling Effect: The Supreme Court Stands Up For Religious Expression

On Thanksgiving Eve 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court gave the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and its co-Plaintiff, Agudath Israel of America, something for which to be thankful. The Court granted temporary injunctive relief to these religious organizations, refusing to uphold a New York State Executive Order that imposed attendance restrictions on religious services. In Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo, the Court rejected the constitutionality of New York’s Order limiting attendance at religious services in COVID-related “red zones” within the State to no more than ten persons and, in “orange zones,” to no more than twenty-five people. A full evidentiary hearing is scheduled for later this month. Additionally, the Supreme Court just recently issued an Order casting doubt on California’s current wholesale ban on in-person religious gatherings. These significant religious liberty victories illustrate a possible Court shift as well as the judiciary’s ongoing struggle with the principles of religious freedom, against the backdrop of pandemic-related executive orders.

D.C. Church Wins Religious Liberty Claim For In-Person, Outdoor Worship

When does a government restriction burden congregants’ religious liberty too much, therefore becoming illegal and unenforceable under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)? On October 9, 2020, a D.C. federal trial court granted injunctive relief to a church against the D.C. Mayor, in Capitol Hill Baptist Church v. Bowser (Case No. 20-cv-02710). According to this important ruling, government restrictions on in-person gatherings should fail if unevenly enforced against houses of worship acting responsibly and in accordance with their sincerely held doctrinal beliefs.

Espinoza: Upholding Taxpayer Support for Religious and Non-Religious Schools Alike

Our country has long grappled with whether and to what extent any government benefits or other favor may be accorded to private schools, especially religious grade schools. This summer, the U.S. Supreme Court issued another landmark decision in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, validating a state school tax credit program that benefits religious and non-religious schools alike by striking down the Montana State Constitution’s prohibition on any state aid to a school controlled by a “church, sect, or denomination.”