Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Eric Dreiband and U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider for the Eastern District of Michigan, who are overseeing the Justice Department’s effort to monitor state and local policies relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, issued the following statement:
“Following action by the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, Mayor de Blasio provided much‑needed relief for New Yorkers by moving New York City to Phase 2 of its reopening plan. Under Phase 2, in addition to the opening of various secular establishments, including outdoor dining and in‑store retail, houses of worship can reopen to 25% of their indoor capacity.
Mayor de Blasio’s recent public statements and enforcement of COVID-19 Orders have demonstrated a troubling preference for certain First Amendment rights over others. The Justice Department is glad Mayor de Blasio will now permit greater religious exercise and will continue to monitor New York City’s reopening to ensure that New York City extends the same respect to the freedom of religion, both in terms of indoor and outdoor gatherings, as it does to the freedoms of speech and assembly.”