In heartening news regarding its ongoing litigation on behalf of shuls in New York State, Agudath Israel of America announced today that four amicus curiae (friend of the court” briefs) have been filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit supporting Agudath Israel’s position defending religious freedom.
The Agudah’s lawsuit filed on behalf of itself and several synagogues against Governor Cuomo’s executive orders effectively closing houses of worship in predominantly Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in New York will be heard by the court next week.
Generally, the briefs argued that the State of New York’s targeting of the Orthodox Jewish community was unconstitutional. Some of the specific points also made by the amici include that religious minorities’ rights may not be trampled even due to public health concerns, and that the Supreme Court decision of 1905 cited by some courts as a justification for disregarding religious rights during a pandemic does not apply.
The briefs were filed by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty joined by the Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty; the Muslim Public Affairs Council joined by the Religious Freedom Institute’s Islam and Religious Freedom Action Team, and Asma Uddin, on behalf of the Islamic community; Torah Umesorah, the National Society of Hebrew Day Schools; and the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence.
Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Executive Vice President of Agudath Israel of America, said, “We thank all of the organizations and individuals who worked on these briefs in support of our case in the Second Circuit. Public health and religious worship are not mutually exclusive – we should be able to worship in ways which will be safe for everyone while respecting religious rights. The widespread support on behalf of religious liberty indicated by these briefs is gratifying and deeply appreciated.”
The briefs referenced are available for download here.
Agudath Israel of America is an umbrella organization representing Orthodox Jews in North America. To see many of its statements encouraging masking, social distancing, and other public health measures, go to https://agudah.org/agudah-covid-response/.