The Founding Fathers recognized a Creator (God) as expressly stated in the Declaration of Independence. They acknowledged that all men are created equal, that these Truths are self-evident, and that their rights were unalienable – i.e. they cannot be denied, taken away or transferred. Furthermore, they expressed that the stated purpose of Government was to make these rights secure.
So as to assure that there was no confusion with regard to the religious liberty granted every American, an amendment to the Constitution was added, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
As America faces this global pandemic, American citizens must understand that constitutional liberties are at stake. We must be ready to define and defend the religious liberties that have been intricately woven into the fabric of our great country. It is vital that we remind one another that the freedom of assembly, and all other “essential” liberties are NOT granted by the government. Rather, they were recognized and acknowledged by our Founders as rights given by the Creator.
In Greenville, Mississippi, uniformed officers started handing out tickets carrying a $500 fine to members in the church parking lot, sitting in their cars listening to a sermon from their pastor.
The use of police force (or the threat thereof) against those attending a drive-in worship service is an unprecedented threat against religious freedom. Government has many options at their disposal – the use of police must never be used without more than a preponderance of justification and a solid constitutional foundation.
In Mendocino County, California, the Department of Public Health said churches could stream their services but could not sing. The governor of Kansas signed an executive order forbidding churches to meet (even in parking lots). In Nevada the governor there banned drive-in church services.
To be clear, I believe that Christians certainly have a duty out of love of neighbor to comply with general policies — policies that apply equally to everyone. To specifically target and single out religion, implementing and mandating policies that are not applied to other groups of society is a violation of religious liberty.
From CNN we saw the headline: “Louisville Police Officers to Record License Plate Numbers of Easter Weekend Church-goers.” Each participant in a drive-in church service would be contacted by the Health Department and ordered to self-quarantine for fourteen days. Fortunately, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order in which the judge said, “The mayor’s decision is stunning, and it is ‘beyond all reason’ unconstitutional.”
Authorities cannot intrude upon the integrity of Christian worship, which is precisely what these orders violate. Governments are justified in ruling that all mass assemblies ought to cease for a definable period of time. That is rational policy. But it also means that authorities must do everything not to single out any religious institution. They also must be careful not to minimize or demean religious services and organizations as “nonessential.”
Professing Christians have taken for granted religious liberty. While unequivocally expressing the essential nature of Church, they have neglected the assembling of the Saints. Church has been relegated to a low priority. As Nietzsche pointed out decades ago, and rightly so, the Church is in decline – whose fault is it anyway?
Society needs Church. We need Church. A place that communicates hope – together.