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The loss of First Amendment freedoms, for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.
The Governor of New York issued an Executive Order imposing very severe restrictions on attendance at religious services in areas classified as “red” or “orange” zones. In red zones, no more than 10 persons may attend each religious service, and in orange zones, attendance was capped at 25. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and the Agudath Israel of America and affiliated entities applied for an injunctive relief, contending that the restrictions violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. According to the Diocese and the Agudath Israel, the regulations treated houses of worship much more harshly than comparable secular facilities.
Under the circumstances, should the court grant the application for an injunctive relief in order to enjoin the enforcement of the challenged restrictions?
The enforcement of the New York Governor’s severe restrictions on the applicants’ religious services was enjoined. The court held that the restrictions at issue, which effectively barred many from attending religious services in areas classified as “red” or “orange” zones, struck at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty. The court averred that the applicants showed that their First Amendment claims were likely to prevail, that denying them relief would have led to irreparable injury, and that granting relief would not have harmed the public interest. Moreover, the court held that the applicants made a strong showing that the restrictions on attendance violated the minimum requirement of neutrality to religion. Furthermore, the matter was not moot and injunctive relief was still called for because the applicants remained under a constant threat that the area in question would be reclassified as red or orange.