In the Supreme Court decision, Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo, the limits placed on houses of worship in certain “orange areas” in New York City were struck
down on constitutional grounds based on religious freedom and equal protection.
Fundamentally the Supreme Court found that there was no rational basis that allowed the Governor by Executive Order to treat religious houses of worship differently from nonessential manufacturing facilities, certain classes of categorized “essential services” and pubic transportation. The Court was split 5- 4 with Chief Justice Roberts voting with the minority.
Due process and equal protection require that classes of people cannot be treated differently under our law without a rational distinction that allows the distinction in treatment predicated upon inherent differences. Here the majority found that there was no such rational distinction between an acupuncture facility, subway, manufacturing facility on one hand and houses of worship on the other. The Court found the Governor’s limits were arbitrary and could not stand constitutional scrutiny. Although the matter was captioned with the lead plaintiff, various religions and creeds joined in challenging the Governor’s decision. Our religious institutions are an important part of the American fabric. Religion rights and the freedom to worship has always been viewed as a fundamental right. Since religion is a fundamental right and religious freedom has historically been protected by our highest court scrutinizing attacks on religions are really not controversial and the outcome predictable. Our laws are built on statutes which makes the law and judicial decisions that interpret and implement the law.
The Governor of New York challenged the decision of the Supreme Court anointing it as
politically motivated and dismissed our Supreme Court as political panderers. These attacks on the Court as a political body is unfortunate and historically inaccurate. Although members of our highest court have been appointed by Presidents of both political parties our history has shown how the Court has consistently shucked political labels when faces with a challenging question that has molded our republic. F.D.R. pushed to pack the court when it disagreed with his attempt to govern by Executive Order. The Executive Order has its place in government but its misuse over the last 20 years is well documented. However, I digress. The point I am trying to make is that our political leaders of both stripes need to stop attacking our Court. It is a unique aspect of our democracy that has over time proven its value as a vehicle of freedom and change. It is also the guardian of our rights.
Both parties and their leaders have attacked the Court as biased and out of touch. The fact that Democrats and Republicans; Liberals and Conservatives have attacked the Court proves a point. In the end, the collective determinations of the Court reflect a direction that is based on what is best for our nation, not just the next election cycle. It is wrong for a Governor who pretends national ambition to attack the fidelity of the Court to Justice and an unbiased commitment to the sanctity of our always ongoing American experiment.
I know it is the fashion today to attack the Court as well as other bedrock American institutions. All of these attacks ultimately weaken our resolve and the people’s hold on democracy. Politicians need to stop this destructive behavior. It is not to say that people should not challenge or criticize the decision of the Court. Of course, they should. However to dismiss
decisions as irrelevant partisan utterances are unproductive and shows the ignorance of the speaker more than flaws in the Court. Our Judicial System is flawed like all human endeavors; however, it is the closest to perfect of any judicial system in the world. We should celebrate the elegance of this system. We should question it’s decisions but never should we challenge the good faith and intellectual honesty of these Justices who are some of the finest legal minds in America.