Pandemic Policy: Singing Banned in CA, Catholic Victory in NY

While California officials applaud public protests involving tens of thousands of not exactly COVID-mindful individuals, the same officials have informed “houses of worship” that due to the risk of spreading the virus their members are banned from singing or chanting.

With masks? Without masks? With no-contact thermometer checkpoints in place or without? Are we still on the same page regarding whether asymptomatic individuals are contagious? Or did we flip that particular, all-important narrative? So far as I can tell, the state Department of Public Health did not bother with such specifics.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “conservatives” are pushing back.

Really? Only conservatives have noticed the Animal Farm inconsistencies here? If public officials can ignore massive public protests while simultaneously cracking down on Gregorian chant, “some people are more equal than others” has risen to a level not even the most stridently middle-of-the-road can ignore.

Fortunately, the disparity in COVID-mindful public policy has been called out in a recent case in New York. Did you hear about it? Probably not. From an article in The Remnant (cited below):

With the decision in Soos v. Cuomo, federal district Judge Gary L. Sharpe has removed religious gatherings from the virtual ghetto in which Governor Cuomo, his Attorney General and New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio had placed them[.] …

Before this decision, religious gatherings alone were confined to 25% of building capacity while secular businesses, manufacturing facilities, nonprofits, office environments of all kinds and even restaurants with permitted tables of ten people — facing each other while eating and talking without masks — were allowed either 100% or 50% occupancy.

At the same time, Cuomo, de Blasio and a host of other public officials throughout the state were applauding, approving and even participating in mass gatherings, often numbering in the tens of thousands[.]”

In his decision, Judge Sharpe wrote, “Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio could have just as easily discouraged protests, short of condemning their message, in the name of public health and exercised discretion to suspend enforcement for public safety reasons instead of encouraging what they knew was a flagrant disregard of the outdoor limits and social distancing rules. They could have also been silent. But by acting as they did, Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio sent a clear message that mass protests are deserving of preferential treatment.”

Says Sharpe, “There is nothing materially different about … a religious gathering such that defendants’ justifications for a difference in treatment can be found compelling.”

According to Albanyupdate.com, “[a]s a result of the federal order, Governor Cuomo, Attorney General James, and Mayor de Blasio are ‘enjoined and restrained from enforcing any indoor gathering limitations’ against the involved houses of worship ‘greater than imposed for Phase 2 industries,’ provided that participants follow the prescribed social distancing. They are also forbidden from ‘enforcing any limitation for outdoor gatherings provided that participants in such gatherings follow social distancing requirements as set forth in the applicable executive orders and guidance.'”

The suit was brought to bear against Cuomo and his policies by Christopher Ferrara, a lawyer and outspoken proponent of traditional Catholicism, on behalf of two SSPX priests and three Orthodox Jews from Brooklyn. Here’s hoping rational individuals in California — “conservative” and otherwise — will bring similar lawsuits to bear upon lopsided bans against “singing and chanting.” As Judge Ho of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals put it:

The First Amendment does not allow our leaders to decide which rights to honor and which to ignore. In law, as in life, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. In these troubled times, nothing should unify the American people more than the principle that freedom for me, but not for thee, has no place under our Constitution.

This article was updated to clarify the circumstances surrounding the New York lawsuit.

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