NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Diocese of Brooklyn’s lawsuit against Gov. Andrew Cuomo to reopen dozens of churches amid a second coronavirus shutdown heads to court Thursday.

Nicholas DiMarzio, the Bishop of Brooklyn, said he’s pleased the case is moving forward and believes church should be considered essential, CBS2’s John Dias reported.

The hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m.

If a judge rules in the church’s favor, 28 churches in Brooklyn and Queens would be allowed to reopen. They were all forced to close or significantly limit capacity when the governor ordered non-essential businesses to close and schools to go remote in COVID-19 hot zones.

Signs outside Holy Name of Jesus Christ church in Park Slope remind parishioners to practice COVID compliance.

“You have to reward the people who are doing right,” said Crown Heights resident Alem Clark, who said she often notices people following the rules.

Clark believes the dozens of churches are being penalized for the actions of others.

“I feel like if areas in Borough Park are not doing it, they should be closed down,” Clark said.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

While the churches in the case fall under New York’s red and orange zone restrictions, the lawsuits are filed on the ground of religious freedom.

DiMarzio said they’ve been operating at 25% capacity safely for months.

“Going to church should absolutely be considered essential. We should not be grouped with non-essential services like theaters and recreational facilities,” the statement said.

Not everyone agrees with the Diocese’s argument.

“It’s their privilege to sue the city, but it’s for the benefit of everybody in the city,” one person told CBS2.

“I think everyone should have to live under the same rules,” said Zack Smith of Windsor Terrace.

“It’s just the way we live now… If cases are rising, we need to do what we have to do,” said Joe Handelsman of South Park Slope.

MORE: Cuomo Says He Will Withhold Funding From Local Governments That Don’t Enforce In Areas With COVID-19 Micro-Clusters

Earlier in the week, the Bishop of Brooklyn wrote an opinion article in the New York Post called “We Shouldn’t Have To Sue Gov. Cuomo To Reopen Our Churches.”

“The restrictions defy logic,” he wrote.

The lawsuit, which the Diocese filed last week, was expedited after Cuomo on Wednesday threatened to withhold state funding from establishments that violate the lockdown orders.

Cuomo’s ultimatum comes after two yeshivas in Borough Park ignored requirements to close their doors.

“… nothing else I have done has motivated them. Maybe money works,” Cuomo said.

RELATED STORY: NYC Cracks Down, Issues $150,000 In Fines For Failure To Comply With Shutdown Guidelines In COVID Hot Zones

The governor has lost patience with community noncompliance and a lack of enforcement by New York City.

“They don’t want to do enforcement. Why? Because it’s politically sensitive, and let’s be frank and candid, the community we’re talking about today is a politically powerful community. You know it and I know it,” Cuomo said Wednesday.

The governor’s actions include slashing funds for New York City, Orange County, Rockland County, and other localities that aren’t serious about enforcement.

The state sent letters to schools in red zones saying they must close or lose state aid. Schools that violated the order were notified the money will be withheld.

Three shuls in Rockland County are suing Cuomo, too.

“Public worship is not a nonessential activity. It is an activity protected by the United States Constitution,” said attorney Ron Coleman.

Former assemblyman Dov Hikind accused the governor of betraying the state’s Orthodox community.

By CTO



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