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Brooklyn diocese sues Cuomo over capacity rules for churches

The Diocese of Brooklyn sued Gov. Andrew Cuomo for allegedly violating its First Amendment rights by limiting capacity at churches in Brooklyn and Queens in his latest round of coronavirus shutdowns.

In a statement, the diocese said the governor’s latest executive order “arbitrarily” imposed the limits on Catholic churches in the boroughs — despite them having played a minor role in the new COIVD-19 hot-zone spikes.

“The executive orders this week have left us with no other option than to go to court,” Nicholas DiMarzio, the Bishop of Brooklyn, said in a statement.

“The State has completely disregarded the fact that our safety protocols have worked and it is an insult to once again penalize all those who have made the safe return to Church work,” he added.

The Brooklyn federal court complaint, which seeks a protective order blocking the executive order, says the new restrictions would devastate the Catholic community in Brooklyn and Queens, which has been a “lifeline” to residents since churches reopened after the first coronavirus outbreak.

“Effectively closing the doors of the church again now would be devastating to the community, and would grossly infringe on the First Amendment rights of Catholics in the affected areas of Brooklyn and Queens,” the complaint states.

The restrictions imposed by Cuomo this week would limit capacity in houses of worship that are in zones near coronavirus clusters in Brooklyn and Queens. Churches in the “red zone,” which are closest to coronavirus clusters, would be limited to 10 people maximum.

In a statement, Cuomo spokesperson Rich Azzopardi said the administration was focused on protecting people.

“Virtually every action taken to protect public health during this pandemic is followed by a suit from somebody. We’re focused on saving lives,” he said.

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