Professor Michael Helfand, "Racial Justice and Religious Liberty Go Hand in Hand" -- The Forward
Professor Michael A. Helfand's opinion piece, "Racial Justice and Religious Liberty Go Hand in Hand. De Blasio Pitted Them Against Each Other - and Got Sued," has been published in The Forward. The article considers the ongoing legal conflicts between faith communities and stay-at-home-orders, and the recent federal lawsuit challenging New York's rules.
Excerpt from "Racial Justice and Religious Liberty Go Hand in Hand"
By focusing on the relative importance — and not the relative risks — of the racial-justice protests and the religious prayer services, de Blasio put the decision to continue applying the stay-at-home order to houses of worship squarely in the First Amendment's crosshairs. It would be hard to imagine a more explicit devaluing of religious reasons as compared to non-religious reasons and — from a legal perspective — that remains true regardless of whether one agrees with de Blasio's statement on the merits.
The Court has emphasized that such devaluing — arguing that religious reasons aren't as important as nonreligious reasons — stands at the center of what the First Amendment prohibits. As a result, de Blasio's proclamation now threatens to undermine the ability of New York State to impose orderly restrictions on houses of worship in the face of an ongoing global pandemic.
The complete article may be found here.