Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, the religious right has wasted no time trying to endanger public health as much as possible. It started with televangelist Jim Bakker selling silver and pretending it was a cure, something that got his ass sued. However, it’s not always that obvious.
Ever since various local governments have put social distancing orders in place, many on the right has reacted with annoyance that churches are not above the law. Take this tweet from Lila Rose, the founder of the pro-life group Live Action, as an example:
What precedent, also, have we set that we have allowed governors in California, in New York & Virginia to forcibly ban 10+ assemblies in churches (a basic constitutional right) yet allow abortion facilities to remain open & killing thousands? #Covid_19
Of course, this comparison is nonsense. If only because no order has mandated that churches close down, instead just requiring them, as they require everyone, to only be in a group of ten people or less. Abortion clinics are also under the same regulations, for the record. And it’s much easier for them to meet those regulations because people do not gather in churches in the same way they gather in abortion clinics, under any circumstances.
Mind you, criticizing laws is not by itself wrong. In fact,it is your right as an American. However, some are encouraging Christians to violate the law, and as such endanger public health. Take this article from Matthew Schmitz, a writer for the popular Catholic magazine First Things:
Unless religious leaders reopen the churches, they will appear to value earthly above eternal life. Like grocery stores, churches can be kept open in a manner consistent with public health. Drive-up confessions, in which the priest is kept at a safe distance from the penitent, are already occurring. Masses can be conducted in a way that keeps congregants six feet apart — more social distancing than one sees in the supermarket, or on the subway or sidewalk. Just as priests serving under St. Charles Borromeo once held their fingers in flame after giving the eucharist to the sick, priests today can use hand sanitizer before and after administering the sacrament.
Mr. Schmitz is not alone in encouraging Churches to violate the law. Failed Senate candidate Roy Moore made a similar statement on Twitter:
When 10 people can’t assemble in church or business then healthy people are being quarantined, our Constitution & faith in God is under attack, & Tyranny triumphs when fear reigns. “Let tyrants shake their iron rods…we fear them not, we trust in God” “Chester” 1770 Wm Billings
Eventually, one man had had enough of this. That being New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who said this in a statement last week:
So, I want to say to all those who are preparing the potential of religious services this weekend — if you go to your synagogue, if you go to your church and attempt to hold services after having been told so often not to, our enforcement agents will have no choice but to shut down those services. I don’t say that with any joy. It’s the last thing I would like to do because I understand how important people’s faiths are to them, and we need our faiths in this time of crisis, but we do not need gatherings that will endanger people.
This obviously caused quite a bit of controversy, Daily Wire host Michael Knowles said this on Twitter:
If De Blasio permanently forced churches to close, the most measured and reasonable response would be to riot.
Hey Michael, if you want to know why De Blasio had to do this, your comment, that’s why.
So allow me to go over the main criticisms of this:
First off, why did he call out churches and synagogues specifically? Well, look at who’s calling to break the laws! It isn’t Muslims, Scientologists, Hindus, or Buddhists, it’s Christians and Jews.
Second off, and this is the main question, does he have the authority to do this? To put it simply, yes. As a government regulator, you have the right to close down any institution that refuses to comply with the law. Hence why the government could have also chose to shut down Mormon churches if they refused to comply with federal laws against polygamy.
However, what needs to be talked about is how De Blasio is using this as a symbolic measure. Reminder, this was the same mayor who decided to go to the gym back when the outbreak first started. This is De Blasio saying he’s no longer fucking around and not allowing people to endanger public health for any reason.
The claim that he’s violating the first amendment, might I add, is comical. First off, the first amendment was only really ever meant to apply to the federal government. Second off, you do not have the right to endanger public health because of religion. The first amendment is meant to keep things equal between all walks of life, not allow the religious to do whatever they want.
Of course, cases like this have happened before. Remember Kim Davis, the woman from Kentucky who refused to issue a same-sex marriage license after the Supreme Court made it legal? However, stories like that are usually annoying, not endangering the public health.
To put it simply, the religious do not have the right to endanger public health. De Blasio is one of the few people who is truly recognizing that, and I must commend him for doing such a thing.