We are in the midst of global pandemic. And as a result, our federal, state, and local officials have responded by posing restrictions on the number of people that can gather in one place-in some areas the limit is as few as 10 people. Restaurants, coffee houses, and movie theaters have all been shut down. From professional basketball players to little league baseballers, their seasons have been canceled or postponed. And for people of faith, these government-imposed restrictions hit particularly close to home as our places of worship now stand empty.
While many leaders of churches and other religious leaders are worried that these state-mandated restrictions violate religious liberty, they don’t have to be. This isn’t the first time that a pandemic has impacted our lives from the way we live to the way we worship. We have been through this before.
Below, you will learn how America’s faithful should respond, how to listen to our weekly teleforum First Response, a brief history of the impact of pandemics on religious freedom, and how to get resources to develop a better understanding of how the impact of Coronavirus is affecting religious liberty.
Churches and faith-based organizations are the light our communities need in these dark times. People of faith should be encouraged to rise to the challenges of our current health crisis, as they have done throughout history.
As long as religious gatherings are not being singled out for bans that secular gatherings are not subject to, the government does have what is called a “compelling interest” in performing one of their essential duties—keeping the public safe.
Any efforts to institute permanent bans on gatherings at churches or houses of worship are blatantly unconstitutional. Rest assured that First Liberty is leading the charge to identify and eliminate these threats to your freedom before they ever get off the ground.
Permanent restrictions on your freedoms will never be tolerated as long as we have anything to say about it. With your support, First Liberty will always defend your right to live out your faith. And in a volatile time where enemies of religious liberty are using these circumstances as an excuse to attack and undermine this sacred freedom, we are counting on your support now more than ever as we go All In to fight back. Will you go all in with us?
Millions of Americans are adjusting to the new normal brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic. Government officials, trying to stem the spread and effects of the pandemic, have imposed restrictions on large gatherings—including churches and other religious institutions. How should America’s faithful respond? Do these state-mandated restrictions conflict with the First Amendment and religious freedom?
Join First Liberty Institute attorneys every Friday for an in-depth look at the legality of state-mandated restrictions and your right to live out your faith.
As World War I was drawing to an end, a new and even more deadly enemy was already at work – the Spanish Flu of 1918. Like Coronavirus, it was highly contagious. From 1918-1919, the Spanish Flu spread globally infecting nearly a third of the global population and killing an estimated 50 million people.
And as soldiers came home from the war, they brought the virus with them. The virus quickly spread through home towns all across the United States. In Washington, D.C. alone, 50,000 residents were infected prompting district health to take action by restricting public gatherings, including churches and other religious institutions. While local pastors were worried about the limitations place on the First Amendment’s guarantee of the “free exercise of religion” and the “right of the people to peaceably assemble,” they chose to cooperate and work with the government.
Through this spirit of cooperation, the restrictions reduced the overall impact of the already devasting Spanish Flu. And today the legacy of this cooperation stands as an example of the good that can happen when church and state choose to work together in what is seen as the darkest of times.
Today, we are faced with a new enemy, and like the Spanish Flu, Coronavirus is requiring a similar course of action. And while people of faith across the country are understandably nervous when it comes to ceding too much control to the state, we must remember that we have an opportunity to be a source of comfort as we provide hope to those around us. And by cooperating with the restrictions, church and state can once again work together to reduce the impact of a global pandemic that is threatening our nation.
Religious Institutions now have unique opportunities to serve their local communities. And many already are. Examples include:
While our pastors, churches and houses of worship are coming under a lot of pressure, it is our time to stand strong – together. This is one of the reasons why First Liberty fights for religious freedom. It is this freedom that allows our religious institutions, houses of worship and all people of faith to shine and to serve.
First Liberty has created new FREE resources to help you develop a better understanding of how COVID-19 is impacting houses of worship and people of faith throughout the United States including: