It didn’t take long for Amy Coney Barrett to be a difference-maker on the U.S. Supreme Court.
In her first month of duty as a Supreme Court justice, Barrett voted to temporarily bar New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s religious service attendance restrictions aimed at combating the coronavirus.
The Supreme Court backed California and Nevada governors 5-4 in similar cases in May and July, respectively. The decision flipped 5-4 against New York in this case with Coney Barrett, who replaced the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the high court last month, voting to bar Cuomo restrictions, while Chief Justice John Roberts and the three remaining liberal judges remained in favor of states limiting the number of people at worship services in areas affected most by COVID-19.
Justice Neil Gorsuch believed that the state mandates were more tolerable for people congregating in secular activity than religious activity and violated the First Amendment.
“It is time–past time–to make plain that, while the pandemic poses many grave challenges, there is no world in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike shops but shutter churches, synagogues and mosques,” Gorsuch wrote. “So, at least according to the Governor, it may be unsafe to go to church, but it is always fine to pick up another bottle of wine, shop for a new bike, or spend the afternoon exploring your distal points and meridians.”
Cuomo instituted an Oct. 6 “Cluster Initiative” that limited mass gatherings and businesses. Religious services were kept to no more than 10 people in “red zones” and 25 people in “orange zones.” A Brooklyn Roman Catholic diocese, two Bronx synagogues and an Orthodox Jewish organization brought the case forth.
Coney Barrett checked off her first public Supreme Court vote and first Supreme Court swing vote before her first holiday.