Fred Weinberg: CNN Exposes Its Ignorance on 1st Amendment


The other day, I heard some lefty on one of the lefty cable channels say the president has no authority to tell governors that they must allow churches to have services.

Ummmm … wrong.

Way back in 2000, Congress passed by unanimous consent a law called the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000.

And for those of you who think this is political, it was signed by Slick Willy Clinton.

The law “prohibits zoning and landmarking laws that substantially burden the religious exercise of churches or other religious assemblies or institutions absent the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling governmental interest.”

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The act says among other things that zoning and land use laws cannot be used to:

“(1) treat churches or other religious assemblies or institutions on less than equal terms with nonreligious assemblies or institutions;

(2) discriminate against any assemblies or institutions on the basis of religion or religious denomination;

(3) totally exclude religious assemblies from a jurisdiction; or

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(4) unreasonably limit religious assemblies, institutions, or structures within a jurisdiction.”

Now you might say that a gubernatorial edict isn’t the same thing. I’m willing to bet an oral hearing at the Supreme Court that you are wrong.

The president is in charge of the Department of Justice. Those points came from the DOJ’s official advice. My guess is that Attorney General William Barr wasn’t kidding when he said, “even in times of emergency, when reasonable and temporary restrictions are placed on rights, the First Amendment and federal statutory law prohibit discrimination against religious institutions and religious believers. Thus, government may not impose special restrictions on religious activity that do not also apply to similar nonreligious activity.”

“For example, if a government allows movie theaters, restaurants, concert halls, and other comparable places of assembly to remain open and unrestricted, it may not order houses of worship to close, limit their congregation size, or otherwise impede religious gatherings. Religious institutions must not be singled out for special burdens.”

That sounds amazingly similar to the Department of Justice guidance issued on RLUIPA.

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In short, the president can override the governors on this issue since it is addressed not only in the First Amendment to the Constitution but also in the Federal Code.

And yet, CNN reported that “Trump threatened to ‘override’ governors if their states did not follow the new federal recommendations, but it was unclear what authority the President was referring to.”

As if both the First Amendment and a 20-year-old law passed by unanimous consent in Congress need “clarification.”

In CNN’s case, the word ignorance comes to mind. They were ignorant of the fact that their patron saint, Slick Willy, actually signed that act into law.

AT&T, which owns CNN, should hang its corporate head in shame.

If you are going to pretend to be a news outlet, you should try a little harder.

You know when this will change?

When the Trump base catches on to the AT&T-CNN connection and starts buying their cellphone service elsewhere.

When AT&T starts losing serious money that can be attributed to mad Trump supporters with pitchforks.

Money talks.

The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website. If you are interested in contributing an Op-Ed to The Western Journal, you can learn about our submission guidelines and process here.

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Fred Weinberg is the publisher of the Penny Press, an online publication based in Reno, Nevada ( He also is the CEO of the USA Radio Networks and several companies which own or operate radio stations throughout the United States. He has spent 53 years in journalism at every level from small town weekly newspapers to television networks. He can be reached at You can subscribe, free, to the Penny Press weekly email on the website.