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NEW YORK (ChurchMilitant.com) - Catholic priests and Jewish congregants are suing New York's Democratic leaders for allegedly using Wuhan virus restrictions to single out people of faith.
The lawsuit, leveled against New York governor Andrew Cuomo, his attorney general Letitia James and New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, asserts these leaders used a "blatant double standard" when implementing the pandemic-related restrictions.
"Favored businesses ... as well as favored mass demonstrations ... are totally exempt from the challenged gathering limits, while defendants irrationally and capriciously continue to forbid religious ceremonies ... and other comparatively tiny gatherings on the now patently specious grounds that they will cause death if allowed to occur," according to the lawsuit.
Thomas More Society (TMS) is representing the plaintiffs, who include two Catholic priests — Steven Soos and Nicholas Stamos — and three Orthodox Jewish congregants — Elchanan Perr, Daniel Schonborn, and Mayer Mayerfeld. TMS, a nonprofit law firm dedicated to pro-life, pro-family and religious liberty cases, filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court on June 10.
The lawsuit charges the three defendants violated the plaintiffs' rights to free exercise of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and expressive association under the First Amendment as well as violating due process protected by the 14th Amendment.
It further accuses Gov. Andrew Cuomo of acting against New York state law and the New York State Constitution.
TMS related to Church Militant an explanation from special counsel Christopher Ferrara on how both the "emergency stay-home" and the "reopening plan declarations" discriminated against houses of worship.
"They are illegally content-based, elaborate, arbitrary and pseudo-scientific," Ferrara asserted. "The governor and his agents, along with New York City's mayor have employed favoritism and political platforms against people of faith."
While the restrictions were in place, thousands of protesters and looters roamed throughout the Big Apple, unchecked and unbeholden to social distancing regulations, following George Floyd's murder. Observing this incongruity, Ferrara noted that in addition to the unconstitutional and discriminatory nature of the defendants' orders, their so-called science was also irrational.
He remarked, "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?"
"It is time to end New York's experiment in absolute monarchy," said Ferrara. "We are asking the court to put an end to these unconstitutional executive orders and their prejudicial enforcement."
TMS told Church Militant that double standards applied by Cuomo and de Blasio include:
Regarding the two Catholic priests, Frs. Soos and Stamos, TMS points out their ministerial gatherings were limited to 10 persons or less even if they followed "social distancing" measures.
In addition, the priests' churches still remain under the 10-person limit for "non-essential gatherings" as of May 29. In other words, religious worship services have been banned or restricted, while mass protests have gone unchecked.
The U.S. District Judge ordered the defendants to file a response by June 15.