In this interview with Catholic World Report, attorney Randy Mastro discusses the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of the right to religious freedom in the case presented by the Diocese of Brooklyn, demonstrating religions were being discriminated against in New York with excessive COVID restrictions.
In this interview, Mastro analyzes the significance of the landmark case, what grounds led to their legal win, and why this is not a Catholic-only issue, but affects all faiths. He also discusses why its Supreme Court ruling could have a significant effect on similar discriminatory practices going forward, and gives advice for religious institutions if they were to find themselves in a similar dilemma.
On October 6th, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an Executive Order capping attendance at houses of worship. Mastro and his legal team were contacted by Bishop Nicholas Anthony DiMarzio and the Diocese that same day. Each week that followed, Mastro says, “was driven by the same goal: working against the clock in an effort to open church doors for the upcoming weekend’s Mass.”
Mastro’s legal claim is that the 10- and 25-person caps violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, with two principal components to the argument.
Catholic World Report recently spoke with Attorney Mastro.
CWR: Attorney Mastro, how were you approached in this case? Could you describe your initial involvement?
Attorney Randy Mastro: Governor Cuomo issued his Executive Order capping attendance at houses of worship on Tuesday, October 6, and we were contacted by the Diocese that same day. By the following day, we were working on the case and off to the races. That first week was a whirlwind. Our immediate goal was to ensure that the doors to churches throughout the Diocese would be open to parishioners for that weekend’s Mass, so we knew we had to get before a judge by the end of the week.
By Thursday, our team had filed the case and requested a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, essentially asking the Court to block the 10- and 25-person caps on church attendance in the affected “zones” on an emergency basis while the rest of the case played out. The next day, Friday, we had an emergency hearing before a district court judge. Although that judge denied the temporary restraining order later that night, he invited us to apply for what’s called a “preliminary injunction.” So, we immediately got back to work, further developing the evidentiary record in hopes of winning the preliminary injunction the following week. Each week that followed was driven by the same goal: working against the clock in an effort to open church doors for the upcoming weekend’s Mass.
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