Just before midnight this Thanksgiving Eve, the United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 blocking New York Governor Cuomo’s restrictions on religious services.
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.