Seeking repeal of the so-called “Intolerable Acts” of 1775, the first Continental Congress sent Britain’s King George III a petition for redress of grievances which in turn led to Patrick Henry’s “Liberty or Death” speech.
But severely restricting any of our freedoms, including religious freedom, during COVID-19 is not an intolerable act.
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.
To borrow from Patrick Henry who said, “I am not a Virginian; I am an American,” 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, 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.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.