New York: Religious groups take stand against restrictions

(WABC) — As New York grapples to get a hold on spiking hot spots of COVID-19, some religious groups continue to take a stand against the state’s latest restrictions.

A court hearing took place Thursday for Brooklyn’s Catholic Diocese which is fighting to reopen 28 churches. Meanwhile, three Rockland County Jewish congregations have filed a lawsuit accusing Gov. Andrew Cuomo of engaging in a streak of anti-Semitic discrimination with a crackdown on religious gatherings.

The Manhattan federal court lawsuit filed late Wednesday accused the Democrat of making negative, false, and discriminatory statements about the Jewish Orthodox community as he imposed new coronavirus measures to counter the state’s rising infection rate in so-called “red zone” areas.

Cuomo’s statements and actions were painful for residents in an area north of New York City where a man invaded a Hanukkah celebration in December and stabbed or slashed five people, the lawsuit said. Grafton Thomas awaits trial after pleading not guilty.

The attack occurred in Monsey – near the New Jersey state line about 35 miles (56 kilometers) north of New York City – where two congregations in the new lawsuit are based.

In the past two weeks, New York City has tested 32,000 people in the cluster zones and has added 32 testing sites in Brooklyn and Queens. The positivity rate in those areas is hitting a plateau, Mayor Bill de Blasio says.

“We do see, again, these results indicate some leveling off some improvement and all these grassroots efforts, all the education, all the facemask distribution and the enforcement,” de Blasio said.

De Blasio dismissed Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s threat to pull city funding if it doesn’t crack down harder on violations.

He says since the beginning of October, the city has inspected 18,000 businesses and institutions and handed out 288 tickets for public health violations.

But Cuomo says the city has not been tough enough, especially with yeshivas.

“If a yeshiva is open, you can tell because you see school buses with children in them,” Cuomo said.

But some in the Orthodox Jewish community continue to protest the restrictions and they say their neighbourhoods are being singled out.