It’s very handy how the “separation of church and state” only works one way.
Leftists often insist that the “religious right” are attempting to create a theocratic state and shoving faith down their throats.
And yet, how often is the phrase “separation of church and state” invoked when secularists use it as a cudgel to beat down religious groups–particularly Christians?
Yet our founding documents enshrine the freedom for people to worship as they choose. The First Amendment isn’t just prohibiting the government from establishing a national religion, it also prohibits the government from impeding the free exercise of religious worship.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Yes, I do know that that applies to the federal level, but many states have followed suit and have similar state regulations allowing for the freedom of religion.
The left has often flexed the muscle of the state to infringe on religious liberties, but now they have a very convenient excuse to do so–public health. They will say that if you dare want to gather together as one body to worship God on the holiest day of the Christian calendar, “you want people to die.”
Some states have tried to walk that political tightrope between public health and religious liberty by prohibiting worship services that include more than 10 people present. These states include Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Wyoming.
Meanwhile, several states have outright banned churches from being open during the coronavirus lockdown including California, Hawaii, Illinois, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Virginia. Other states are following suit.
Houses of worship are not exempt from Idaho’s Stay-At-Home order, but they can continue to provide services via livestream as long as no more than 5 people are present and they maintain social distancing guidelines.
On Thursday, the day that many Christian denominations call Maundy Thursday to commemorate the Last Supper, Republican Governor Eric Holcomb announced some pretty severe restrictions on churches and other places of worship that don’t extend to other groups.
His requirements are not only unconstitutional because they trespass on the constitutionally secured individual right to worship, they are discriminatory because they place restrictions on churches that do not apply to other organizations, groups of people, and establishments. The governor is telling Christians how worship must be done and with stricter rules than for all other public gatherings.
Besides limiting in-person gatherings to 10 people or fewer, the new regulations include:
- Church buildings and other physical locations for worship should be closed.
- Livestream or other virtual services are best.
- The minimum number of necessary personnel should be used at all times for any services.
- Staff and volunteers who are not speaking should wear masks.
- Drive-in services may be conducted only under these conditions:
- Attendees must be inside vehicles at all times.
- Attendees should not interact physically with clergy, staff or participants in other vehicles.
- Vehicles should contain only members of a single household. Do not bring your neighbors or others outside of your household.
- Cars must be spaced the equivalent of every other parking spot or approximately 9 feet apart.
- No one may exit a vehicle at any time.
- Portable bathrooms are not allowed on the premises and no church facilities may be used by attendees.
- It is preferred that no communion be distributed.
- In instances when communion is distributed, only prepackaged communion may be used and must be prepared and distributed in a manner that meets food safety standards.
- The following individuals who are vulnerable and at higher risk for illness should not attend:
- Persons who are 65 years and older.
- Those who have severe underlying medical conditions, like heart or lung disease or diabetes.
- Individuals who are sick.
Democrat Governor Laura Kelly issued an Executive Order stating that religious institutions must adhere to an order limiting public gatherings to 10 individuals or fewer.
The Republican State Attorney General, Derek Schmidt, said that while the order was “sound public-health advice that Kansans should follow,” he discouraged law enforcement agencies and prosecutors statewide from attempting to enforce it as it was likely a violation of the state constitution.
The order was challenged the next day by the Republican-controlled legislature and overturned by a vote of 5-2.
Kentucky’s Democrat Gov. Andy Beshear has ordered state surveillance of churches conducting services over the Easter weekend. Anyone who attends will face mandatory quarantines.
Kentucky State Police will record the license plate numbers of cars in church parking lots for in-person services and turn the owners’ names over to local health departments, which will issue 14-day quarantine orders, according to an April 10 press release from the governor’s office…
…“This is the only way we can ensure that your decision doesn’t kill someone else,” Beshear said, according to the release. “That your decision doesn’t spread the coronavirus in your community, that your decision to go to a mass gathering doesn’t undermine the sacrifice of every other house of worship that is choosing the right thing,” he continued.
Source: The Federalist
The article notes that Kentucky has one of the lowest rates of coronavirus cases despite relatively high rates of obesity and diabetes which would put citizens in the “at-risk” category.
In addition, the Governor’s office was only aware of six churches in the entire state that were planning on holding in-person services for Easter.
Governor Janet Mills, a Democrat, has issued a “Stay Healthy At Home Order” that is incredibly restrictive. Not only does it give directives to retail spaces by square footage, it also doesn’t exclude religious institutions from the stay-at-home order.
The state’s Stay-At-Home order is incredibly unclear. The order bans gatherings of individuals but also states that people are free to leave their home for “an educational, religious, or political reason.”
Democratic Governor Gina Raimondo has issued an Executive Order banning gatherings of more than 5 people which includes religious services.
Former Democratic hopeful, Governor Jay Inslee, has not included places of worship as essential services.
Democratic Governor Tony Evers initially included churches as “non-essential” and ordered them closed as part of his “Safer at Home” Order, but had to backtrack when his ban on drive-in services faced a massive amount of backlash. Places of worship are now also considered “essential services.”
Critics will say that it is irresponsible for churches to remain open during a public health emergency and hold in-person services, and I understand that argument. Many have moved to livestreaming their services and encouraged churchgoers to stay at home. Others are attempting to put into place CDC guidelines for social distancing in order to celebrate as the Body Of Christ on Easter Sunday.
However, public transit is still running, often on a reduced schedule with fewer stops. As far as I am aware, they are not adhering to a limit of 10 or fewer people, so you can get on a bus–a small, enclosed space–and not be subjected to the same rules that have been imposed on churches.
Perhaps one of those critics can point out exactly where in the Bill of Rights the “right” to move about on public transit supersedes free exercise of religion.