Almost immediately after the death of Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, President Donald Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett, then a federal judge, to fill her seat. The nomination was highly contentious; Barrett came under fire for her views her critics believed would tilt the balance of the court in a partisan direction. The Republican-controlled Senate confirmed Barrett to the nation’s highest court within a month.
And late last night, the Supreme Court voted to bar the state of New York from reimposing Covid-19 restrictions on religious gatherings. The ruling was 5-4, and Justice Barrett was the crucial swing vote, siding with her conservative colleagues.
The news prompted President Donald Trump to wish the country a “Happy Thanksgiving” as he shared coverage of the ruling from the nonpartisan SCOTUSblog, which has covered the Supreme Court since 2002.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING! https://t.co/56e8Qy7O22
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 26, 2020
In their decision, the majority said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s restrictions violated the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of religion. The restrictions varied and depended on zone: In “red” zones, zip codes where coronavirus infections are the highest, no more than 10 people may attend religious services. Attendance is capped at 25 in “orange” zones, where the risk of coronavirus infection isn’t as high.
The unsigned majority opinion in favor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Agudath Israel of America said that Covid-19 regulations are “far more restrictive than any Covid-related regulations that have previously come before the court, much tighter than those adopted by many other jurisdictions hard hit by the pandemic, and far more severe than has been shown to be required to prevent the spread of the virus.”
President Trump has often sparred with Cuomo over coronavirus restrictions and accused him of mishandling the pandemic in the state, which experienced the heaviest losses in the spring. More than 34,000 people have died in New York since the pandemic began, though the curve in the state has remained relatively flat in the last few months, experiencing a slower uptick in Covid-19 cases as the virus has spread further afield, endangering lives in the Midwest and in the Sunbelt.