Just before midnight this Thanksgiving Eve, the United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 blocking New York Governor Cuomo’s restrictions on religious services.
LifeSiteNews is hailing the decision as a victory for First Amendment rights.
Ironically, the One Year Bible reading for this Thanksgiving Day includes the account of Daniel and friends who refused to bow before the government imposed ‘state’ religion.
Daniel did not have First Amendment protection by which to say “no.” Rather he had a conviction that led him to defy the king’s edict.
There may come a time for that in our country, but the COVID-19 pandemic is not it.
Yes, Gov. Cuomo’s restrictions on places of worship were severe, “limiting the capacity to sometimes as little as ten people, no matter the size of the building,” to hear LifeSiteNews journalist Michael Haynes tell it.
Yes, places of religious worship being fined $15,000 “if they acted in violation of the new rules,” is heavy-handed.
Yes, it appeared Gov. Cuomo’s edict had, as the Supreme Court majority determined, “singled out houses of worship for especially harsh treatment.”
But no – (and I agree, who am I to claim intellect on a par with the members of the Supreme Court) – I do not find that the “no,” as an example, uttered by Daniel, and the “no” ruling of the Supreme Court that defied the order of king Cuomo on behalf of houses of worship, as anywhere near the same.
The Supreme Court’s midnight hour ruling, according to LifeSiteNews, “added that by violating the First Amendment rights, ‘There can be no question that the challenged restrictions, if enforced, will cause irreparable harm.’”
I have a question.
How does the “irreparable harm” legal concept apply to restrictions imposed on houses of worship during a pandemic?
The “irreparable harm” doctrine argues that the type of harm threatened creates conditions that cannot one day be put back the way they were.
“Examples of such irreparable harm may arise in cutting down shade trees, polluting a stream, not giving a child needed medication, not supporting an excavation which may cause collapse of a building, (or) tearing down a structure.”
What conditions did Gov. Cuomo’s restrictions create that could not one day, post-pandemic, be put back the way they were?
Gov. Cuomo is not King Nebuchadnezzar, but the latter had, quite foolishly, and self-aggrandizingly, imposed, a basically comply-or-die mandate.
To be thrown into a fiery furnace for failure to comply is, quite clearly – apart from divine intervention – to suffer “irreparable harm.”
Similarly, the parents of Moses defied Pharaoh’s edict which ordered the death of all newborn Hebrew males, another “irreparable harm” consequence.
Later, with a great deal of thanksgiving no doubt to his parents for having instilled in him the wherewithal to defy Pharaoh, Moses did just that.
And one day the simple fishermen duo of Peter and John, when threatened by the powers-that-then-were of the loss of their (unbeknownst to them) First Amendment rights of free speech, they responded “We cannot keep silent.”
Parents, for another example, and I think leaders and parishioners of houses of worship for that matter, would do well to save their ‘no’s’ for the times where irreparable harm is just that.
Children crossing the street while oblivious to traffic deserve to hear “no” shouted with as much volume as parents can muster lest the little ones suffer “irreparable harm.”
Children wanting to sleep outside in a tent on the other hand, in the rain even, and many, many other inconsequential activities of children should not be shouted down simply because it inconveniences the parents.
“No,” is a complete sentence. And “no” should be saved for “irreparable harm” scenarios.
The same, in my opinion, applies to all our actions in times such as this.
Then, when we do say “no, we will not comply” we can do so with conviction upon which our lives may well depend.
Dave Shaw says
I applaud the Supreme Court decision.
How often have we heard, “Separation of Church and State” whenever something “good” is proposed? We’ve all heard it.
“Take the words, ‘under God’ out of the Pledge of Allegiance. Take the words, ‘In God We Trust’ off our legal tender. The cry of, ‘No crosses on public lands'” (yet the crescent moon of Islam would probably be okay), suppression of saying, “Merry CHRISTmas!” in public (especially by store clerks), etc.
But, apparently, there is nothing wrong when the State wants to interfere with the Church. The First Amendment is what it is. The State has no right to interfere with the Church. You cannot have it both ways.
Suggested reading: “100 Bible Verses that Made America,” by Robert J. Morgan.
Mr Anderson’s focus on “irreparable harm” is presumptuous in that he tries to make objective a question that, in matters of, faith, conviction and fellowship, is greatly subjective and presumes to know what is “harm” from another’s viewpoint. These mandates also presume that people of faith are not capable – when give clear, sensible, medically sound and consistent guidelines – of acting responsibly. No member of a church, synagogue, or mosque wants to deliberately act in a way the hurts a fellow worshiper.
It also assumes people in churches are much less responsible and caring about their neighbors than say mask-less “peaceful demonstrators” crammed together shouting at the top of their lungs while exercising “a right” also guaranteed under the same Amendment as those seeking to worship together. We know which “exercise of right” has been favored and which has not by our secular “Kings.”
Then there is the fact of strip clubs, weed shops, liquor stores and casinos being approved to open but church – NO! Anyone see some hypocrisy operating here? Or is a preference for a different “spiritual” experience?
Mr Shaw’s observations get to heart of the matter. Progressives have long worked to discredit, marginalize and drive religious faith out of the public discourse because it’s principles, standard and precepts threaten the quest for power and control.
I applaud the Court’s finally pushing back on the efforts to trash our Constitution and standing up for the God given freedoms we are guaranteed under the Bill of Rights.
P Rose says
Restrictions on religeous services is one thing, but restrictions on gatherings is another.
David Anderson says
Pushing religious liberty at the expense of public health is antithetical to a church shepherd’s proper concern for his sheep.
Church-goers are humans. Humans contract COVID-19. Obviously, simply entering a church does not magically immunize the one entering, anymore that entering McDonald’s makes you a hamburger.
So how about we – all of us, church goers and otherwise – consider that we’re in this together.
Shepherds and sheep should in fact be leading the way in safely navigating this crisis not trumpeting their rights to freely assemble, protesting limits, discounting the numbers, almost as if there were no world-wide health crisis happening.
The Seattle Times reported (Joseph O’Sullivan) just this morning (November 28) that “Washington could face a ‘catastrophic loss of medical care’ in the coming weeks if the increase in COVID-19 cases continues,” a dire warning issued by Gov. Jay Inslee this week.
Today’s headline from CNN (Christina Maxouris): “US is ‘rounding the corner into a calamity,’ with COVID-19 deaths projected to double soon.”
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in a dissenting opinion to the 5-4 majority wrote (NBC News, November 27, by Raul A. Reyes), “The Court’s ruling will only exacerbate the Nation’s suffering.”
Already churches across the nation are saying “Me Too.”
“UC Hastings law professor David Levine said the ruling opens the door for religious groups to challenge pandemic restrictions in other states,” (Allie Rasmus, KTVU FOX 2, November 27).
How many lives, First Amendment religious flag-wavers, are we talking about?
“A million Americans each week,” said Sotomayor, are testing positive for COVID-19.
“The Constitution does not forbid States from responding to public health crises through regulations that treat religious institutions equally or more favorably than comparable secular institutions,” wrote Sotomayor, “particularly when these regulations save lives.”
“The freedom to worship is one of our most cherished fundamental rights, but it does not include a license to harm others or endanger public health,” said Daniel Mach, the director for the American Civil Liberties Union’s freedom of religion and belief program (New York Times, Nov. 26, Jesse McKinley and Liam Stack).
Even under severe restrictions to our normally celebrated and most cherished freedoms, this is not the place, not the time, not the hill to die on.
DAVID ANDERSON I agree with Dave Shaw, it is every human’s rights to chose if they wish to go into harms way or not, it is not the right of a governing entity to chose for us. When you go skiing, snowboarding, ice skating you chose to do so at your own risk of slipping on ice and cracking your skull open. When you go water skiing or skin diving or any other sport, you could possible come upon some other danger that may take you life.
‘Irreparable damage’ to religious assembly can be death from depression from lack of seeking your pastor or priest’s wisdom, or the joy of visiting with your fellow church members, especially if you live alone and perhaps are recently widowed or a widower. Despair from the negativity of the main stream news, which you seem to thrive on for you negativity also causes this depression that freedom of assembly of church can negate by rejuvenating hope and fellowship.
I also applaud the Supreme Court’s ruling.
Perhaps if you stopped watching so much TV and went out and did some yard work, volunteered at food banks, bought new toys of tot to donate, or other activities to lift your spirits (go to church, what a concept) you might not always be in such a frump!
God bless you anyway whether you believe in God or not!
John Ross says
This whole Covid 19 thing is being over blown, they report daily the number of positive test, but they leave out the number of test. The truth of the matter is that less than 1% of the population has caught this virus and the number of deaths as being reported is a big joke also being .005%. They are constantly saying we had 3 deaths all in their 70’s,80’s or 90’s with underlying causes, in other words they were all in hospice anyway, then of course there are the other ones being reported that actually died in a motor cycle accident. They don’t tell us of the high rate of false positive test or test that were conducted in unsanitary conditions. This whole thing was a set up and over blown to interfere with our economy and our elections, this Chinese flu came about after Joe Biden and his son Hunter had made a multi million dollar deal with China, just look back at the time line and the facts on the Biden family Chinese business deals it all lines up. The media reports are a shame and scare tactic. That’s all folks another liberal lye.
Frank Ecker says
I too completely agree with the Supreme Court’s ruling and find Cleo and Mr Shaws thoughts far out weigh the thinking of Mr Anderson.
His “irreparable harm” standard is not objective, but subjective, and Cleo’s thoughts show that to be true. People weren’t made to be isolated and Zoom is not a viable form of fellowship for worship – and there is abundant evidence that this is true across the board, not just for religious matter.
Mr Anderson also assumes that worshipers cannot act responsibly. I find this to be an extremely arrogant attitude. Our church meets, implementing appropriate, responsible protocols because we can balance the competing interests and issues. We have mature leaders who know how to shepherd “through the valley.” We err on the side of caution – and have done fine, but have not given up.
I’m wondering why Mr Anderson expresses no concern about strip clubs, weed shops, liquor stores, casinos, etc., being allowed to remain open, but want’s to shutter churches, synagogues, mosques. Then there are the mask-less, crammed “peaceful protests” with all the shouting that get no attention. We hear they must not be stopped due to rights under the same amendment that should be disregarded for worshipers. If this isn’t arrogant hypocrisy I’ll never see it.
The Virus IS dangerous, and people should be wise in their behavior, but I believe the vast majority of our Citizens can handle this given reasonable, clear, rational and consistent rules/guidance. I’m sure Mr Anderson is sincere in his concerns, but I don’t think he trusts his fellow man very much. However, I do.
Brian Westley says
Dave Shaw apparently wants government-imposed religion, which is the opposite of religious freedom.
Brian Westley, Correction, I dare say that you meant DAVID ANDERSON, who wrote the government-imposed religion theme on his negativity rant for the week or bi-weekly overly wordy opinion post.
Dave Shaw is totally against government interfering with religion!
I am sure it was simply an error.
Anyway everyone please do have a lovely church service today, tomorrow, or Friday depending on your religion. I know I will!
Brian Westley says
No, I mean David Shaw, who wants his god in the pledge of allegiance and on money, crosses on public lands (and lies about organizations that are against ANY religious symbols promoted by the government), and thinks there’s some kind of unspecified “suppression” of people saying “merry christmas” in public (though, of course, store clerks can be told by their employers to use that or “happy holidays” or whatever, since they are being paid to say what the owners want).
He wants government-imposed religion, as long as it’s his. He doesn’t want religious freedom.
David Anderson wants religious groups to be treated equally.