I’ve been pondering the recent ruling by the US Supreme Court siding with religious groups’ desire to bypass the COVID-19 restrictions and allow people to attend church rather than to maintain social distancing.
I’m a church goer, although for some time now I’ve been attending Mass via a video since I’m at high risk for COVID infection. Therefore, in fairness, I admit to somewhat of a bias. Not a significant one, but a bias nevertheless. Therefore, accept these as my personal opinions.
First, from a constitutional standpoint, I look to the preamble:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.“
I personally believe that a rampant pandemic is a real and present danger to domestic Tranquility and the general Welfare. Infecting 100,000 people and killing 1,000 people every day does not seem to help secure our Posterity. Finally, a common defence is necessary for any danger, such as a pandemic, not merely military threats. I believe the founding fathers wrote what they meant.
Incidentally, the oft-spoken of separation of church and state is somewhat different than many believe. The First Amendment to the US Constitution states:
“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.“
This places a restriction on Congress. Given that America fought for independence from Great Britain, which had the Church of England as its official religion, the founders did not want the same situation here. In this situation, I don’t see Congress as having had any involvement.
From a religious standpoint, I have at least three problems:
- Jesus was a healer. His disciples became healers. During the Antonine Plague of 165-180 AD, early Christians, who cared for their ill, had a higher survival rate than non-Christians who did not.
- “Jesus said to them, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ And they were amazed at Him.” (Mark 12:17)
- Gathering for prayer is important, but there are other ways to pray. Jesus taught, “When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6: 6)
I do not claim to be an expert on either Scripture or the law, but I do know how to think, and these are my thoughts.