Rep. Andy Biggs, the chair of the House Freedom Caucus, and Rep. Jody Hice, a Caucus member, sent a letter to President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Attorney General William Barr, urging them to protect religious freedom.
Calling on individuals to have greater awareness of their environments, keep reasonable distance from others, and strive to maintain better hygiene may all be warranted as we continue to confront the many unknowns of this virus. Prohibitions on worship have no place in these restrictions.
Members of many faiths are called upon to gather in community to worship. And the First Amendment protects their right to do so. Sadly, many leaders around the country have taken this pandemic as an opportunity to deem worship gatherings non-essential. In fact, recent reports indicate the Governor of Kentucky will be tracking the license plates of any individuals attending Easter services and subsequently forcing them to quarantine for fourteen days. There is no place for this behavior in America.
Every American is free to decide whether to risk gathering in order to worship their God. Every house of worship should be given the opportunity to establish safe social distancing practices that minimize the risk of attending. It is impossible to argue that attending a worship service is any riskier than visiting the grocery store, and yet community worship is just as essential for many faiths as access to food. Worse still is that many states have allowed businesses far less essential than a house of worship, such as liquor stores, to remain open.
That’s a sensible argument.
As I’ve noted before, the entire premise of essential vs non-essential establishments has allowed local governments to decide what matters in our lives. And most locales have treated religion as non-essential. That’s a huge problem.
Attorney General Barr has said that he will be keeping an eye on abuses.
“We are going to keep an eye on all these actions that restrict people’s liberty,” he said in an interview with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham.
Mr. Barr said the government has the right to restrict liberties, including the freedom to gather and worship, during emergencies, but those limits must be balanced against citizens’ constitutional rights.
“A free society depends on a vibrant religious life by the people,” Mr. Barr said. “So any time that’s encroached upon by the government, I’m very, very concerned.”
“I would hate to see restrictions on religion continue longer than they are strictly necessary,” he continued.
Barr is being attacked by CNN for calling the restrictions, “draconian”. That they are. It’s possible to argue that they are needful, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not draconian.
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