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Brian Mark Weber / April 3, 2020

Arresting Pastors in the Age of Coronavirus

A debate is roiling over shuttering churches and whether that infringes Liberty.

State governments are releasing prisoners while federal judges are deeming abortion clinics an “essential service.” Residents are warned of large fines and imprisonment for leaving their homes. Meanwhile, church pastors are being arrested for holding religious services.

Amid the Wuhan coronavirus hysteria, many of our fellow citizens are today kicking their constitutional rights to the curb in deference to the Great American Lockdown.

Is this what our Founding Fathers risked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor for?

Of all the state’s encroachments on our freedom, perhaps the most disturbing of all is the prohibition against religious services.

Sure, we get it. The coronavirus poses a serious threat. And its chances of spreading increase when large groups gather in small places. But hundreds of people crowd into supermarkets (and liquor stores) on a daily basis. If the virus is that deadly (it isn’t unless you’re elderly or have other health issues), why not limit the number of customers or have the National Guard hand out boxes of food at the front door?

Yes, food is essential. But for many of us, so is the spiritual nourishment we receive when we gather together in a house of worship. No, a webcast can’t replicate the experience. For our own good, we need that connection with one another. Even the president has warned of the toll on our nation’s mental health if these unprecedented restrictions are prolonged.

In some places, bold church leaders continue to ignore lockdown orders by holding services. Some of them are being arrested. And New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is threatening to permanently shutter churches and synagogues if they don’t comply.

The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh laments, “We have entered a point in our history where governors, mayors, and local county boards, can come up with any rule they like, outlaw whatever behavior they don’t like, and enforce their edicts at gun point.”

Clearly, we don’t want thousands of people crammed tightly together, but many smaller churches had been enforcing social distancing, cleansing facilities, and telling the ill and the elderly to stay home. Indeed, it’s probably safer at Sunday service than at Walmart. Even so, President Trump is advising churches to temporarily stop their services or greatly restrict their capacity.

Adam Carrington at the Washington Examiner shares a similar view. He asserts that governments are protecting “the health and safety of individuals” and that “government exists to address these kinds of threats.”

But do such measures open the door to tyranny? Does the Constitution take a back seat during a national crisis, even when that crisis has been stoked and sensationalized by the mainstream media?

Some of our state political leaders have resorted to language that is wholly un-American — language that threatens to fine or imprison those who don’t bow to the power of the state. This sets a terrible tone. We’re still free to grab a case of beer at the liquor store and buy a year’s supply of toilet paper at Walmart, but don’t dare think of toting that family Bible to Sunday services.

It’s for your own good. It’s the new normal. And it’s a threat to our Liberty.

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