Judge denies Diocese of Brooklyn’s request to lift capacity restrictions for a second time

October 20, 2020 Jaime DeJesus
Judge denies Diocese of Brooklyn’s request to lift capacity restrictions for a second time
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The second time wasn’t the charm.

After the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn had its request for an expedited hearing in the federal lawsuit filed against Governor Andrew Cuomo granted, another judge denied its request to stop the state from instituting limited capacity in Catholic churches.

The second decision came on Friday, Oct. 16 by Brooklyn Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis.

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According to the New York Post, Garaufis stated it is better to be safe

“In fact, if the court issues an injunction and the state is correct about the acuteness of the threat currently posed by hotspot neighborhoods, the result could be avoidable death on a massive scale like New Yorkers experienced in the spring,” he wrote in a statement.

“The Diocese of Brooklyn is extremely disappointed by today’s ruling, as we believe we presented a strong case in support of our right to worship,” said Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio. “It is a shame our parishioners in the red zones cannot return to Mass when the judge acknowledged we have done everything right. We are now considering our appellate options”

On Oct. 13, the Diocese of Brooklyn announced a lawsuit against Gov. Andrew Cuomo for violation of religious freedom, a judge upheld his decision to limit capacity for Mass attendance in COVID-19 hotspots. However, a different judge quickly upheld the governor’s decision.

After the Diocese was granted to have the hearing expedited, Randy Mastro, an attorney who has represented the Diocese of Brooklyn, was optimistic that churches wouldn’t have to significantly limit capacity.

“We look forward to presenting our case to Judge Garaufis, demonstrating that the Diocese has done everything right to provide a safe, COVID-free environment for worship and should therefore be permitted to reopen its churches for Mass this coming Sunday,” he had said before the decision.

At the moment, the Diocese of Brooklyn has to wait until Mayor Bill de Blasio and Cuomo lift the lockdown on the hotspots, such as in Bensonhurst and Sunset Park, before they can welcome more churchgoers.

“It is unfortunate the court has ruled against us, and as we will abide by these restrictions, the “churches in the red zones are closed until further notice,” Bishop DiMarzio said. “The Mass attendance limits of 10 people are extremely difficult to implement because we never want to turn away worshippers. It is unfortunate that our inalienable constitutional right to worship is still impeded despite the efforts we have made.”

He added that the Diocese will continue to press our leaders for policies that consider the individual circumstances of houses of worship and advocate for places of worship to be labeled essential.

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