Monday, April 13, 2020

Lest there be any confusion. . .

Let me begin by suggesting that this is not about the Church flaunting recommendations from the CDC or treating casually the very real threat of COVID 19.  What it is about, however, is how the Church has been treated differently from others whose rights have constitutional protection.  I refer to a couple of things.

On the one hand, Mayor DeBlazio of New York has made a frontal assault upon churches which refuse to adhere to the rules.  The threat is profound.  He has promised to shutter their buildings permanently and shut them down forever.  This is not hyperbole.  It is his threat and promise:

This comes after the New York Times published an op-ed piece right at the feet of evangelical Christians.  Christians often get scapegoated and blamed -- all the way back to Rome.  But the persecution of the Church is, apparently not over.  In an op-ed piece for The New York Times, Katherine Steward had leveraged the evangelical support of Trump as a rationale for blaming the evangelicals for the spread of the coronavirus in America.

The NYTimes headline was an unmistakable provocation: “The Road to Coronavirus Hell Was Paved by Evangelicals.” Yes, you read that correctly:  “Trump’s response to the pandemic has been haunted by the science denialism of his ultraconservative religious allies.”  Author Stewart insists “Donald Trump rose to power with the determined assistance of a movement that denies science, bashes government and prioritized loyalty over professional expertise. In the current crisis, we are all reaping what that movement has sown.”

An Indiana county health commissioner in a populous county attempted to ban church gatherings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.  Her effort to target churches was met with pushback from Attorney General Curtis Hill in what he described as "unconstitutional religious discrimination."  So Hill sent a letter Tuesday to Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Deborah McMahan that  her prohibition of church gatherings in Allen County, where Concordia Theological Seminary is located, was an overreach.  Nonetheless, McMahan stands by her order even though it is no longer active.

Again, I do not suggest that Christians should be ignorant of or flaunt best medical advice but in these cases the churches are being singled out and targeted in direct violation of protected rights.  This needs to stop.  While churches have had some outlandish figures who have flaunted their refusal to abide by any limitations, the vast majority of churches are attempting to be good citizens while at the same term serve the faithful in a time of tremendous challenge for us all. 


Carl Vehse said...

"... in these cases the churches are being singled out and targeted in direct violation of protected rights. This needs to stop."

This should involve deliberate efforts of church bodies along with religious freedom legal organizations to find uncorrupted judges to bring First Amendment lawsuits against megalomaniacal antiChristian politicians.

OTOH, if you wait a few days, restrictions on gathering for religious services will go away, since Ramadan starts next week and politicians don't want their heads cut off.

Anonymous said...

In 1938 American social commentator Edward Peter Garret (who wrote under the name Garet Garrett) published an essay titled "The Revolution Was". In it, he wrote the following:

"There are those who still think they are holding the pass against a revolution that may be coming up the road. But they are gazing in the wrong direction. The revolution is behind them. ... There are those who have never ceased to say very earnestly, `Something is going to happen to the American form of government if we don't watch out.' Those were the innocent disarmers. ... Our birthright was freedom, and it was taken away without protest.”

Christians are shell-shocked by the actions of governments that shut down organized religion in American. Christians are stunned by the sight of armed local policemen arresting Christians who dared to assert their First Amendment right to assemble to worship God.

To those Christians I would repeat the words of Mr Garrett: The revolution was. Organized Christianity lost its influence in American society years ago, perhaps it wasn't obvious or perhaps we preferred not to recognize it. But now, it is crystal clear, there is no denying it. Our 'unalienable rights' were simply dismissed by government, by the stroke of a pen. It didn't require an invasion by a hostile foreign power. It didn't require a communist revolution.

When the topic of suppression of Christian liberty came up on conservative discussion boards, we heard from keyboard warriors how this could never happen in America. The people wouldn't stand for it. We have our Second Amendment rights, you know, just for the purpose of opposing the actions of tyrannical government.

Well, I guess that talk was just that, talk. No Christian group or organization did anything to push back. A Christian's right to assemble to worship God is now reduced a privilege granted by the government.

And by the way, this happened under a conservative Republican president, a Republican-controlled Senate, and a conservative Supreme Court.

Carl Vehse said...

"No Christian group or organization did anything to push back."

To the contrary, a Louisville (KY) church, On Fire Christian Center, sued Mayor Greg "Adolf" Fischer and the city of Louisville, claiming the mayor's outlawing drive-in services was a violation of constitutional rights.

Kentucky District Judge Justin Walker issued a temporary restraining order Saturday, which says the city is banned from stopping On Fire Christian Church from holding the services. The Court "enjoins Louisville from enforcing; attempting to enforce; threatening to enforce; or otherwise requiring compliance with any prohibition on drive-in church services at On Fire." In the restraining order, the Court's Memorandum Opinion stated:

"On Holy Thursday, an American mayor criminalized the communal celebration of Easter.

"That sentence is one that this Court never expected to see outside the pages of a dystopian novel, or perhaps the pages of The Onion. But two days ago, citing the need for social distancing during the current pandemic, Louisville’s Mayor Greg Fischer ordered Christians not to attend Sunday services, even if they remained in their cars to worship – and even though it’s Easter.

"The Mayor’s decision is stunning.

"And it is, 'beyond all reason,' unconstitutional."

Carl Vehse said...

The Babylon Bee moves satire closer and closer to today's reality:

"More government officials across the country are calling for common-sense religion control.

"The officials insist they don't want to ban religion entirely -- they just want some basic, common-sense laws to regulate it. From background checks to licensing requirements and forced church closures, state officials everywhere are leading the charge to implement much-needed regulations on the practice of religion....

"Measures proposed by many state legislatures and governors include the following:

• Background checks on purchases of holy books
• Age restrictions before religious teaching can be given
• Limit to number of theology books one can own
• Pastoral licensing
• Bans on high-capacity church buildings
• Stringent restrictions on concealed Bible carry
• A 10-day waiting period after you click on a sermon on YouTube"

Excerpted from The Babylon Bee.

Carl Vehse said...

Attorney General William P. Barr has issued a "Statement on Religious Practice and Social Distancing."

In addition, the Justice Department has filed a Statement of Interest "in support of a church in Mississippi that allegedly sought to hold parking lot worship services, in which congregants listened to their pastor preach over their car radios, while sitting in their cars in the church parking lot with their windows rolled up. The City of Greenville fined congregants $500 per person for attending these parking lot services – while permitting citizens to attend nearby drive-in restaurants, even with their windows open."