The big news last night from the U.S. Supreme Court, a 5-4 decision with Amy Coney Barrett in the majority, reversing precedent in a case block New York state limits on religious service attendance during the pandemic.


The particular case was brought by a Catholic diocese, but the issue has raged in New York as Orthodox Jewish congregations have flouted attendance limits with marriages attended by thousands. Perhaps now the Supreme Court will overturn the fine imposed for the assembly illustrated above.

The New York limits also have been changed, but the Supreme Court wanted to send a message and it was clear. Religion trumps public health.


Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who had been the court’s pivotal member in previous emergency applications seeking relief from virus-related restrictions, dissented along with the court’s three liberal members.

He noted that while the court was considering the petitions, Cuomo, a Democrat, had eased the restrictions, and thus there was no need for the court to intervene now.

“It is a significant matter to override determinations made by public health officials concerning what is necessary for public safety in the midst of a deadly pandemic,” Roberts wrote for himself. …


But the court’s more conservative justices said it violated the Constitution for local officials to impose more drastic restrictions on houses of worship than on businesses considered essential.

Related: This new court majority will soon be ruling in any number of ways that religious beliefs of one sort MAY impinge on the religious beliefs of others. Think women’s medical rights; gay rights; access to contraceptives; employment, housing and public accommodation; treatment of prisoners; treatment of people with religious beliefs disfavored by the majority; hate crime laws, and more. Example: Leading Arkansas homophobe Jerry Cox will be happy to tell you how imposing penalties for hate-motivated crimes against LGBT people violates his religious freedom. Should Arkansas miraculously pass such a law, he’ll find a sympathetic ear on this Supreme Court.

Elections have consequences, including when the pivotal vote comes from a hurry up appointee of a soon-to-be-defeated president.