Supreme Court Holds Gov. Cuomo in Contempt of the First Amendment
If conservatives were waiting for a sign that the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett would usher in a new dawn at the Supreme Court, they got it a little before midnight on Wednesday night. That was when the court, in a 5-4 decision that shoved Chief Justice John Roberts into the dissenting minority, decided that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was in violation of the First Amendment with his coronavirus lockdown rules.
The case, which centers around the unfair and illogical restrictions Cuomo has placed on religious services, shows conclusively that the balance of power has shifted at the nation’s high court – thanks to President Trump’s incomparable nominations.
It wasn’t long ago that the court, with Roberts in control and Ruth Bader Ginsburg holding the liberal line, decided cases similar to the one that came before the docket this week. Earlier this very year, the court decided in favor of both California and Nevada, both of which had anti-religion coronavirus restrictions in place. The fact that the decision went the other way on Wednesday proves that Barrett’s arrival on the court coincides with a return to the constitutionalism that has been missing for far too long.
Few of the justices better encapsulated the problem with Cuomo’s order than Neil Gorsuch, who wrote:
At the same time, the Governor has chosen to impose no capacity restrictions on certain businesses he considers “essential.” And it turns out the businesses the Governor considers essential include hardware stores, acupuncturists, and liquor stores. Bicycle repair shops, certain signage companies, accountants, lawyers, and insurance agents are all essential too. So, at least according to the Governor, it may be unsafe to go to church, but it is always fine to pick up another bottle of wine, shop for a new bike, or spend the afternoon exploring your distal points and meridians. Who knew public health would so perfectly align with secular convenience?
Adopting a typically ominous tone, the New York Times warned: “Wednesday’s ruling was almost certainly a taste of things to come. While Justice Ginsburg was alive, Chief Justice Roberts voted with the court’s four-member liberal wing in cases striking down a restrictive Louisiana abortion law, blocking a Trump administration initiative that would have rolled back protections for young immigrants known as Dreamers, refusing to allow a question on citizenship to be added to the census and saving the Affordable Care Act. Had Justice Barrett rather than Justice Ginsburg been on the court when those cases were decided, the results might well have flipped.”
Yes, yes, they might well have.
That’s the point.