As many businesses have closed due to the coronavirus, we must take a closer look at how the pandemic is affecting the church.
One major discussion that currently taking place is over whether churches should be considered “essential” and whether churchgoers should continue attending services. The question we have to ask ourselves is: At what point are these precautionary actions a violation of constitutional rights?
Many churches are able to adapt and continue to hold services online or through livestreaming, allowing us to continue worshiping within our homes. There are all kinds of apps that churches are now using to have not only Sunday services but also small groups and other events.
While it is not “necessary” to physically go to church, what about the smaller churches that may have older audiences and aren’t able to create online services for their members?
This has created a situation where churches are now offering “drive-in” services in which churchgoers remain in their cars in the church parking lot while tuning in to a low-frequency radio station to hear the service.
Why shouldn’t churches be deemed essential? If they are deemed essential, why wouldn’t they be allowed to continue in-person services? Should we still follow the guidelines set in place of no more than a certain amount of people in a set place?
Is the physical act of going to church nonessential? At what point do we see a line of separation between church and state?
While we are not being told that we cannot practice our religion, we are now seeing multiple situations in which churches have adapted to the guidelines — and yet their rights are still being stripped from them.
Easter just passed and we saw law enforcement in Greenville, Mississippi, going to church parking lots and fining churchgoers $500 each. Mayor Errick Simmons said his executive order prohibiting drive-in services was “all about trying to save lives.” Churchgoers at the service remained in their cars and had no way to violate the social distancing guidelines of staying six feet apart.
In Kentucky, state police officers placed quarantine notices on the cars of churchgoers and wrote down their license plate numbers.
The noticed placed on each car read: “Where people congregate unnecessarily, or fail to follow adequate social distancing practices, they are spreading COVID-19, CREATING SCENES OF AN EMERGENCY. THIS VEHICLE’S LICENSE PLATE HAD BEEN RECORDED. Employees of the local health department will be contacting those associated with this vehicle with self-quarantine documents, including an agreement requiring this vehicle’s occupants and anyone in the household to self-quarantine for 14 days. Failure to sign or comply with the agreement may result in further enforcement measures.”
— Rose McBride (@rosemcbridetv) April 12, 2020
The statement “you are not allowed to go to church” is a scary one. I don’t think we can name another time in history, within a free society, when the government said “you cannot go to church.”
We are mixing policy and religion, and any time we mix those two they are never going to work.
On the religious side, worship is aimed at something after what is now, and you’re working more toward a world to come.
On the political side of things, you’re always working toward the present.
While churches should keep people from large gatherings, should we really be preventing others from following guidelines and attending church within parking lots?
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