The Diocese of Brooklyn filed a lawsuit in federal court on October 8 against the state of New York, charging that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new orders reducing church capacity violates the First Amendment’s guarantee of the free exercise of religion.
“The executive orders this week have left us with no other option than to go to court,” Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said in a statement. “We vehemently disagree with the capacity limits being placed on us. They are disrespectful to Catholics who have only been abiding by the rules,” he added.
“We do not agree with such limitations because they completely disregard the fact that our safety protocols have worked.”
On October 6, Mr Cuomo announced new restrictions on houses of worship in response to a spike in Covid-19 cases in densely populated ZIP codes he has identified as “hot zones”.
He said the state has created three zones – red, orange and yellow – each with different restrictions, including on the size of congregations. Some Catholic parishes in the Brooklyn Diocese are in the ‘red zone’, meaning their churches are being forced to reduce capacity to a maximum of 10 people inside at one time, and some are in the ‘orange zone’, where only 25 people at one time can attend Mass.
A ‘yellow zone’ designation means a 50% capacity.