The Rabbinical Alliance of America—Igud HaRabbonim, representing over 950 American rabbis—celebrates the United States Supreme Court’s decision holding that New York State’s COVID-19 directives regarding limits on attendees at houses of worship for prayer services violate the First Amendment’s free exercise of religion clause. The Supreme Court ruled that “enforcement of the Governor’s severe restrictions on the applicants’ religious services must be enjoined.”
Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, executive vice-president of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, stressed that “Jewish Americans appreciate the right of all Americans to enjoy freedom of religion. This is a sacrosanct privilege afforded to all Americans by the United States Constitution that must never be impeded or otherwise interfered with by any state actor, elected official or agency. New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo is rightly concerned with the spread of COVID-19, a lethal virus that continues to spread throughout the state and the world. We must work together—state and community, civic and religious leaders—as a single team united in an effort to maintain public safety and health without compromising the important social and spiritual needs of the public.”
Rabbi Mirocznik continued, “The Jewish people’s long, sad history of discrimination makes us ever aware and grateful for the foundational American value of religious liberty. We appreciate this great country’s groundbreaking freedom that is constitutionally guaranteed to Americans of all faiths by the First Amendment’s free exercise clause, a freedom that nourishes society by safeguarding the spiritual vitality of every individual. Houses of worship are essential to the public’s spiritual welfare and wellbeing and must not be singled out in an overly restrictive fashion.
“The balance between public welfare and individual rights is difficult to manage, especially in a unique, once-in-a-lifetime health crisis. The Supreme Court has issued an important corrective that we hope will restore balance and allow the government and the public to work together to maintain public welfare and safety. Health is a broad concept that must include both spiritual and physical wellbeing, as well as economic sustenance and family peace.
“The Rabbinical Alliance of America praises the Supreme Court’s decision that houses of worship cannot be held to a different standard. At the same time, the Rabbinical Alliance of America once again reaffirms its position that synagogues must abide by all COVID-19 guidelines, including following social distancing protocols and the wearing of masks as deemed appropriate by the health and medical authorities. We all must do our part to stop and curtail the spread of the deadly virus. Every individual has the power to save lives by following proper health protocols. We must continue to gather and pray only in safe and responsible ways. Anything short of that is irresponsible and unacceptable.”