According to a new lawsuit filed by Ron Coleman and Harmeet Dhillon, Governor Cuomo issued “a targeted” executive order that particularizes coronavirus restrictions to a specific religious minority — Jews.
The audacious governor "freely and repeatedly admitted his decision was not driven by science, or data, but, by ‘fear,’” the two powerhouse lawyers wrote in a complaint on behalf of Jewish community leaders, which was filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York. The Jewish community has “been unfairly singled out by this fear-driven Executive Order due to numerous recent false and discriminatory statements directed towards these communities by Governor Cuomo,” the lawsuit explained.
You might be asking yourself at this point, how bad was the spread of coronavirus in this religious community? “They were not redlined,” Ron Coleman explained in an interview. Numerous communities actually had a higher rate of spread. But they were not targeted with a particularized Order; just the Jews.
In a warning letter that Coleman sent to Cuomo a week before filing suit, Coleman pointed out that Cuomo’s Order “conspicuously avoid[s] many statistical ‘hot spots’ of Covid-19 ‘case spikes,’” and instead targets the Jewish communities. Why is that, Cuomo?
Governor Cuomo did not respond to Coleman’s letter. Instead, he doubled down and withdrew funding from schools operating in Jewish areas.
The lawsuit alleges that Governor Cuomo went so far as to threaten to “close down [Jewish] religious institutions” if the Jews did not “agree” to follow this Order, deeming religious worship non-essential.
If this brings tension to your face, you’re not alone. This is America, after all. And we have the First Amendment, don’t we? “The suggestion that public worship is non-essential is not only offensive, it's unconstitutional. It's literally contrary to the First Amendment,” Ron Coleman declared.
Our courts don’t equally balance religious freedoms with government restrictions under the First Amendment. Individual freedom of religion is given significantly more weight than a government’s interest. For this reason, a government can impose on an individual’s fundamental right only if it furthers a compelling government purpose, and even then, only if the government can show that there is no less restrictive alternative available. And, any restriction on a First Amendment right must be narrowly tailored to the allegedly compelling government purpose.
“Governor Cuomo has already admitted the Order is not rationally-related or narrowly-tailored to the goal of stopping the spread of COIVD-19. Specifically, Governor Cuomo has admitted the Order was not a ‘highly nuanced, sophisticated response,’ but instead a ‘fear-driven response.’ He has additionally admitted the policy was not being ‘written by a scalpel,’ but ‘being cut by a hatchet,’ and was ‘not the best way to do it.’ Governor Cuomo suggested that, at a later date when ‘anxiety’ had lessened, he would try to design a ‘smarter, more tailored approach’ that did not target minority faiths,” the lawsuit states boldly.
The numbers might help to add some perspective. Rockland County, affected by Cuomo’s Order, has a population of 325,789 people. Only 19 people in the entire county are hospitalized, as of today, October 15, 2020. Moreover, coronavirus deaths continue to decline throughout the state and the country. There is no “disaster emergency” to justify the Order; certainly not in these Jewish neighborhoods.
Governor Cuomo’s anti-Semitic Order is mind-boggling, to say the least. It exceeds the bounds of leftist power-grabs amid the pandemic that we have seen from other Democrat governors. As Ron Coleman aptly expressed in his letter, it is “a particular[ly] offensive abuse of power.”