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Opinion | The Supreme Court’s Ruling on Limiting the Size of Religious Services

To the Editor:

Re “Trump Appointees Show Their Clout in Ruling on Virus” (front page, Nov. 27):

The Supreme Court recently made a dangerous decision to place its expertise over that of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s professional public health staff. In its 5-to-4 decision the court rejected Mr. Cuomo’s restrictions on the number of worshipers in a church or synagogue in areas of New York designated as red or orange zones, reflecting their high positivity count for Covid-19.

The last time I checked, there were no public health professionals serving on the Supreme Court. As Chief Justice John Roberts noted in his dissenting opinion, “It is a significant matter to override the determinations made by public health officials concerning what is necessary for public safety in the midst of a deadly pandemic.”

While the right to worship is enshrined in our Constitution, when life itself is at stake, worshipers should consider self-preservation rather than accelerating our ultimate meeting with our maker.

Charles Vidich
Ashford, Conn.
The writer is the author of “Germs at Bay: Politics, Public Health and American Quarantine.”

To the Editor:

In striking down pandemic restrictions on attendance at religious services, Justice Neil Gorsuch said that “there is no world in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike shops but shutter churches, synagogues and mosques.”

We all inhabit a pandemic-afflicted world in which people congregating in large numbers for long periods of time pose a threat to everyone’s welfare that those masked few briefly visiting small shops and stores do not. Does the Constitution prohibit necessary emergency regulations during such a crisis?

Reading Justice Gorsuch’s remarks, I recalled words from a recent Op-Ed by Pope Francis (“A Crisis Reveals What Is in Our Hearts,” Sunday Review, Nov. 29), who noted that some react to pandemic regulations “as if measures that governments must impose for the good of their people constitute some kind of political assault on autonomy or personal freedom!”

I think our founders would concur with the pope.

Jamie Baldwin
Redding, Conn.

To the Editor:

As a lifelong liberal and an attorney, I am actually shocked that a minority on the court voted against the majority verdict. It seems obvious to me that no governor should have the right to limit or suppress a constitutionally protected activity. The ruling does not prevent places of worship from establishing their own distancing rules, or individuals from controlling their own behavior, but there must not be unconstitutional governmental limits on freedom of worship.

Jane Bedno
Mundelein, Ill.

To the Editor:

There is no legal, or religious, construct that could justify permitting large gatherings of people during a deadly pandemic. This is not a First Amendment issue, just as falsely screaming “fire!” in a crowded movie theater is not an exercise of free speech. My response to people who demand religious freedom in our current high-risk environment is “Your religious liberty ends where the danger to my health begins.”

In reaching decisions, our Supreme Court justices should follow the fundamental mandate of physicians: “First, do no harm.”

Mark W. Weisstuch
Forest Hills, Queens

To the Editor:

We now see that, in the form of his Supreme Court appointees, Trumpism, including the elevation of personal beliefs over science, will outlive President Trump’s tenure by decades. It’s frightful to imagine what this portends.

Brendan Williams
Bedford, N.H.

To the Editor:

The pastor of our church was recently asked during the “shutdown” if the church was closed. She replied that the building was closed, but the church was certainly open. Anyone could worship during church services online or in the privacy of one’s own heart during this period of restricted access.

In these times, we must all do things a little bit differently. Avoiding crowded sanctuaries is a small concession for the health and safety of the whole congregation.

David O. Williams
Vero Beach, Fla.

To the Editor:

I strongly suspect that the Supreme Court would have ruled differently if the appellant had been a mosque rather than churches and synagogues. Freedom of religion in this country has too often meant freedom for my religion, not freedom for yours.

Louise Dustrude
Friday Harbor, Wash.

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