Supreme Court sides with NJ religious leaders over COVID restrictions

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday sided with two New Jersey religious leaders who accused Gov. Phil Murphy of violating their religious freedoms during the pandemic.

Rev. Kevin Robinson, of St. Anthony of Padua church, and Rabbi Yisrael Knopfler argued Murphy’s executive orders limiting religious services and allowing large crowd gatherings in indoor and outdoor public places were unconstitutional.

Two lower courts had ruled in Murphy’s favor, but on Tuesday, the leaders deemed the Supreme Court’s move a victory for religious institutions.

“We are getting a very clear message from the United States Supreme Court that government cannot set up any rules that apply to places of worship, or worship activities, but not to other, comparable secular activities,” their attorney Christopher Ferrara told The Bergen Record. “This is the very crux of religious discrimination and a blatant abuse of the United States Constitution and its amendments.”

In November, Murphy signed an order limiting weddings, funerals, and religious services to no more than 150 people.

The Supreme Court also ruled in favor of a small Colorado church after suing Gov. Jared Polis over his COVID-19 restrictions.

The rulings come after the nation’s highest court ruled in favor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Orthodox Jewish synagogues, who charged that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s restrictions limiting high capacity at houses of worship violated their parishioner’s religious freedoms.

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