Yesterday New York State reported 5,996 new cases of COVID-19 (and 35 new deaths). New York has had 651,830 total confirmed cases and 34,345 COVID deaths, the most of any state. The county with the most COVID deaths is Kings County. That's Brooklyn, home to a primitive, insular tribe-- Hasidics-- that shouldn't be living in an 21st century urban environment. Democratic officials in New York had coddled them and allowed their community to break laws and norms at will because they vote as a bloc. When Cuomo tried to keep them--and other crackpot groups driven by superstition and by the greed of their top leaders-- from spreading disease and death, they went to the Supreme Court screaming about their freedom of religion. And, predictably, the new religious cult member of the Supreme Court, Amy Coney Island Baby, tipped the balance into protecting a kind of anomie that could cause complete societal collapse. Another piece of Trump's legacy.
Late last night, the Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 ruling siding with religious groups that insist their freedom to spread contagion overrides the safety of society dealing with the pandemic. From The Forward: "Deciding two cases at once-- one brought by Agudath Israel, an umbrella organization representing and advocating for haredi Orthodox Jews, and one brought by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn-- the court ruled that restrictions placed on areas with high COVID test positivity rates unfairly discriminated against houses of worship. Both petitions were brought when parts of Brooklyn were made into 'red zones' under a plan implemented last month. In red zones, houses of worship are only allowed to have up to 10 people attending services at once, regardless of the capacity of the space. In orange zones, where restrictions are slightly less strict than in red zones, services are capped at 25 attendees. While nonessential businesses were shuttered in red zones, those that were allowed to remain open were not subject to the same capacity limits as houses of worship."
Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative, sided with the liberals against overturning restrictions meant to safeguard public health during a deadly pandemic. Washington Post reporter Robert Barnes noted that "The 5-to-4 order was the first show of solidified conservative strength on the court since Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation... The decision differed from the court’s previous practice of deferring to local officials on pandemic-related restrictions, even in the area of constitutionally protected religious rights."
Reporting for Politico this morning Josh Gerstein noted that "In May and July, the Supreme Court narrowly rejected challenges to virus-related restrictions on churches in California and Nevada, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court’s Democratic appointees to stress that state and local governments required flexibility to deal with a dangerous and evolving pandemic. But support on the high court for those rulings shrank with Ginsburg’s death. Wednesday night’s orders granting emergency relief to Roman Catholic churches and to Jewish congregations in New York demonstrated, as many suspected, that Barrett would side with the court’s most conservative justices in insisting on greater accommodation for religion even as the pandemic is again surging."
“Stemming the spread of COVID–19 is unquestionably a compelling interest, but it is hard to see how the challenged regulations can be regarded as ‘narrowly tailored,'” the court wrote in an unsigned opinion. “They are far more restrictive than any COVID–related regulations that have previously come before the Court, much tighter than those adopted by many other jurisdictions hard-hit by the pandemic, and far more severe than has been shown to be required to prevent the spread of the virus at the applicants’ services.”
...“I fear that granting applications such as the one filed by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn … will only exacerbate the Nation’s suffering,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a somber dissent joined by Justice Elena Kagan.
Sotomayor vigorously disputed the contention that the religious groups were being unfairly discriminated against, arguing that comparisons between religious services and liquor or big-box stores were overly facile because the virus-related health risks posed by what people do in those places are starkly different.
“Unlike religious services … bike repair shops and liquor stores generally do not feature customers gathering inside to sing and speak together for an hour or more at a time,” she wrote. “Justices of this Court play a deadly game in second guessing the expert judgment of health officials about the environments in which a contagious virus, now infecting a million Americans each week, spreads most easily.”
This was very foolish for easily-identifiable Hasidics to do. If the pandemic explodes in New York to levels akin to places like North and South Dakota-- or beyond-- they will be easy to blame and scapegoat by people who lose family members. Across the borough of Brooklyn, Biden won 74.1% to 25.2%. That 25.2% came overwhelmingly from Hasidic neighborhoods.
Take Borough Park, which the Hasidics have turned into a ghetto of their own in northwest Brooklyn. Until the 1980's Borough Park was a normal Brooklyn neighborhood filled with Italian, Irish and Jewish families. By 1990 it was essentially an all-Hasidic enclave. Since 2018, the 48th Assembly District is represented by a rabbi from the Bobov cult of Hasidism,Simcha Eichenstein, handpicked by neo-fascist legislator Dov Hikind and supported by Joe Lieberman and Chuck Schumer. He ran on a platform opposing secular eduction (i.e., education) being imposed on yeshivas. This month he was reelected without opposition on an odd ticket: Democratic plus Conservative.
I'm looking at a map of Brooklyn election districts. These are the Biden percentages in a random half a dozen of the election districts in Eichenstein's 48th Assembly District:
ED-10-- 3.94% (Biden had 19 votes compared to Trump's 448, 62 on the Conservative line)
ED-18-- 1.53% (Biden had 9 votes compared to Trump's 468, 110 on the Conservative line)
ED-21-- 3.19% (Biden had 19 votes compared to Trump's 456 on the GOP line, 88 on the Conservative line)
ED-27-- 1.62% (Biden had 8 votes compared to Trump's 436 on the GOP line, 49 on the Conservative line)
ED-21-- 2.18% (Biden had 7 votes compared to Trump's 350 on the GOP line, 53 on the Conservative line)
ED-20-- 2.22% (Biden had 4 votes compared to Trump's 269 on the GOP line, 38 on the Conservative line)
Biden won 5 electoral districts (narrowly)-- out of 72 in the Assembly District-- all of them bordering other neighborhoods not part of Borough Park