Brooklyn Diocese v. Cuomo - Case Summary

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Modified: 15th Mar 2024
Wordcount: 636 words


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Legal Case Summary

Summary: Legal Case Summary: SCOTUS grant injunctions against enforcement of New York's COVID-19 restrictions limiting attendance at places of worship.


In response to rising COVID-19 infections, in October 2020, New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo implemented new restrictions on public gatherings in designated zones within the state (Liptak, A. 2020).

The restrictions particularly limited attendance at houses of worship in red and orange zones. Religious services were limited to 10 and 25 people respectively, regardless of the building's capacity (Liptak, A. 2020).

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn filed for injunctions against these restrictions, arguing that the regulations violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, with synagogues and other religious organizations joining the suit (Liptak, A. 2020).


Did Governor Cuomo's executive order, limiting attendance at religious services in certain COVID-19 hotspot zones, violate the First Amendment's principle of the 'Free Exercise' of religion?


The ruling is significant as it signalled a possible shift in the Supreme Court's approach to cases involving religious freedom and public health regulations, following the recent appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett (Liptak, A. 2020).

The decision can impact the extent to which states can implement public health measures in response to the pandemic, with potential implications for future public health emergencies and legal interpretations related to the Free Exercise Clause (Axelrad, 2020).


Majority Decision

The Supreme Court granted the injunctions, with five justices finding the regulations were an violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment (Liptak, A. 2020).

Individual Opinions

Justice Roberts and three other justices dissented, suggesting the case was moot as the Diocese and Synagogues are no longer subject to the disputed restrictions (Liptak, A. 2020). Justices Bryer, Sotomayor, and Kagan noted that the restrictions were not discriminatory as they applied equally to religious and secular gatherings.


  • Axelrad, J. (2020). Supreme Court rules against Cuomo's coronavirus limits -- with Barrett playing key role. Fox News.
  • Liptak, A. (2020). Splitting 5 to 4, Supreme Court Backs Religious Challenge to Cuomo’s Virus Shutdown Order. The New York Times.

Journalist Brief

In a split 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and other religious groups against Covid-19 restrictions implemented by New York's Governor Cuomo that limited attendance at religious services. The restrictions, aimed at controlling the spread of the virus, were argued to be in violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. The court's decision marks a possible new direction regarding the balance between religious freedom and public health.


What was the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo?

Answer: The Supreme Court granted injunctions against New York's restrictions, finding them to be violating the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.

Why did the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn sue Governor Cuomo?

Answer: They argued that the Covid-19 restrictions on religious gatherings violated their First Amendment rights to freely exercise their religion.

How will this case impact future public health directives?

Answer: The decision raises questions about the extent to which states can enforce public health measures that might infringe on religious freedom during emergencies.

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