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Lawsuit claims Governor Andrew Cuomo's executive orders violate religious rights

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Posted at 5:53 PM, Aug 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-03 18:39:21-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Freedom of speech and freedom of religion - both rights protected by the First Amendment. But two couples and a Depew minister have filed a lawsuit claiming executive orders issued and enforced by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, State Attorney General Letitia James and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz violate their right to freely practice their religion because they can't host their weddings to the full capacity.

As of June 25th, all gatherings, including weddings, are not allowed to exceed 50 people. The lawsuit said the department of health strictly enforces this policy and has even threatened one couple's venue if does not comply.

But the lawsuit also said this executive order of social distancing has not been fairly enforced and states there have been exceptions to that 50-person limit:

"This cap on religious weddings is ... Enforced despite the fact that defendants regularly permit closely packed gatherings of hundreds and thousands of people to protest the wrongful death of George Flloyd at the hands of a police officer.”

The lawsuit includes quotes from Governor Cuomo's press briefing on June 1, 2020, where he said:

“Protest. Just be smart about it. With this virus, you can do many things now as long as you're smart about it, right?”

It also noted a picture of Mark Poloncarz at a protest in Niagara Square within 6 feet of others.

On the wedding issue, the lawsuit said even at half capacity, some venues can safely accommodate more than 50 people, so capping all weddings at that number simply isn't fair.

The Governor's office has not responded to the lawsuit and the state has not indicated when it may relax rules on weddings and houses of worship.
Freedom of speech and freedom of religion - both rights protected by the First Amendment. But two couples and a Depew minister have filed a lawsuit claiming executive orders issued and enforced by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, State Attorney General Letitia James and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz violate their right to freely practice their religion because they can't host their weddings to the full capacity.

As of June 25th, all gatherings, including weddings, are not allowed to exceed 50 people. The lawsuit said the department of health strictly enforces this policy and has even threatened one couple's venue if does not comply.

But the lawsuit also said this executive order of social distancing has not been fairly enforced and states there have been exceptions to that 50-person limit:

"This cap on religious weddings is ... Enforced despite the fact that defendants regularly permit closely packed gatherings of hundreds and thousands of people to protest the wrongful death of George Flloyd at the hands of a police officer.”

The lawsuit includes quotes from Governor Cuomo's press briefing on June 1, 2020, where he said:

“Protest. Just be smart about it. With this virus, you can do many things now as long as you're smart about it, right?”

It also noted a picture of Mark Poloncarz at a protest in Niagara Square within 6 feet of others.

On the wedding issue, the lawsuit said even at half capacity, some venues can safely accommodate more than 50 people, so capping all weddings at that number simply isn't fair.

The Governor's office has not responded to the lawsuit and the state has not indicated when it may relax rules on weddings and houses of worship.