Have you ever heard anyone make reference to the first amendment? Have you ever read it yourself? Do you understand what it says? It is quite plain.
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.
A limitation that applies equally to the states.
How then does Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot believe she has the right, duty or obligation to enforce stay-at-home orders against houses of worship? How does the governor of New Hampshire think he has accreted the right to limit worship practices?
Our right to exercise our religion
Church leaders should continue holding religious services despite social distancing requirements. Our right to free exercise of religion is not within the purview of our political leaders to limit. Not now, not ever, never has been, never will be.
Now if leaders of the sundry religious organizations choose to make modification to how they conduct services; that is their prerogative.
In 1940, the Supreme Court heard Cantwell v. Connecticut. In the case SCOTUS made a ruling that, due to the Fourteenth Amendment the free exercise clause is enforceable against state and local governments. Using the Fourteenth Amendment as a vehicle for applying the Bill of Rights to the states is also known as the Incorporation Doctrine.
Political leaders are trying to rationalize their positions. They are saying things like:
- “We’re going to be communicating over and over again over the course of this week…”
- “I understand that people are getting anxious…”
- “But defying common sense and public health guidance only puts their congregations at physical risk…”
- “We don’t want to see a cluster break out because faith leaders believe they have only one way of showing their reverence to the God that they worship…”
- “The Bible tells us, where two or more are gathered in my name, there will I be also…”
- “There’s lots of ways in which we show our devotion to our faith that don’t include physically putting people at risk.”
- “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’re doing.”
- “When you gather like this, you are putting yourself and your loved ones in serious danger.”
All of those things are not relevant. God gave us a right neither the mayor not the governor can take away. End of discussion. All further discussion is within each faith community to decide. Our political leaders have a right to free speech. Hateful as it may seem to some. They do not have a right to interfere with our right to free exercise of religion. Not even because they want to save us from ourselves… Virus versus religion is not a political decision point.
At this point political leaders must understand they should cooperate with the faith community, not dictate to us. Those of us with faith take offense that they think they care more about our people than we do. People of faith will not be shunted to the back of the bus. We have to stand up for ourselves at some point.
Failure to do so is accepting termination of all people’s right to the free exercise of religion. We’ve lost trust in what they’re doing. We have to peacefully resist and see where it goes. Please join with us on the Statehouse steps this Saturday May 16th at noon for a service. We must preserve outright to free exercise of religion.