In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily halted New York state’s rules limiting religious services to no more than 10 people – while imposing no such capacity limits on state-determined essential businesses.

New York Gov Andrew Cuomo attacked the court’s decision:

Mr. Cuomo accused the court of partisanship, suggesting the ruling reflected the influence of the three conservative justices who have been nominated by President Trump in the past four years.

“You have a different court, and I think that was the statement that the court was making,” Mr. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, said on Thursday. “We know who he appointed to the court. We know their ideology.”

The court said:

…while a synagogue or church may not admit more than 10 persons, businesses categorized as “essential” may admit as many people as they wish. And the list of “essential” businesses includes things such as acupuncture facilities, camp grounds, garages, as well as many whose services are not limited to those that can be regarded as essential, such as all plants manufacturing chemicals and microelectronics and all transportation facilities.

The court also pointed to the severity of the restrictions, even as big-box stores faced little to no restrictions on the number of people on site:

…it is hard to see how the challenged regulations can be regarded as “narrowly tailored.” They 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 at the applicants’ services.

Justice Neil Gorsuch’s concurring opinion was more pointed in its criticism of Cuomo’s order:

…the Governor has chosen to impose no capacity restrictions on certain businesses he considers “essential.” And it turns out the businesses the Governor con- siders essential include hardware stores, acupuncturists, and liquor stores. Bicycle repair shops, certain signage companies, accountants, lawyers, and insurance agents are all essential too. 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. Who knew public health would so perfectly align with secular convenience?

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