WORSHIP AND LIBERTY – A CRITICAL JUNCTURE
Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court upheld that the Governor of Nevada could block churches from meeting, even at a reduced 50% capacity, due to the current COVID-19 crisis. I have never seen a Supreme Court decision more troubling than this one. How could they misconstrue the clear reading of the First Amendment, “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.” How dare they tell perfectly healthy people they are not allowed to worship their God in the ways in which they have worshiped for centuries? How dare they tell people who have built their own houses of worship that they are not allowed to enter and worship by the edict of a simple “governor?”
If the state desires to quarantine sick people for the common good, certainly the burden of proof is upon the government to prove that each of those individuals is actually sick and contagious before quarantining them. To do otherwise is the equivalent of relinquishing the presumption of innocence for the assumption of guilt in a criminal proceeding. Per the latest data, most people are neither sick nor contagious, yet their rights of worship have been unconstitutionally and unconscionably stolen the state. If they, themselves, choose to forgo public worship out of an abundance of caution, as many have, that is certainly their prerogative. But that choice is theirs and theirs alone.
Therefore, if a man or woman, boy or girl wants to go to their place of worship and worship their God(s) according to their custom and beliefs, and they choose to do this at great personal risk to their own health due to COVID-19, no earthly governmental authority, including the Supreme Court, has the authority to limit them in the “free exercise of their religion.” This right is inviolable and absolute for a society that wants to maintain true liberty. Throughout all of history, individuals and groups have freely chosen to risk great personal harm and even death in order to worship their God in the way(s) in which their God has ordained. Remember how Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites take a three-day journey out into the desert to worship their God? Remember how God responded to Pharaoh’s illegitimate constraint on their right to worship according to their God’s prescriptions?
I have a good friend who just lost a friend to COVID-19 this past week, a man of my age, so I am not here to minimize the seriousness of the disease. I am here to maximize the existential danger we face by allowing ANY governmental authority to regulate the free exercise of religion. If I were in Nevada, I would set about organizing the largest protest to date with so much at stake. Otherwise, the tragic effects of simply relinquishing this precious freedom to a governmental authority will continue to plague all of us long after COVID-19 has become a footnote in our history books, much like the flu pandemic of 1918.
Many will surely say I am overreacting. I hope they are right, I fear they are mistaken.