There is news out of Chicago that Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker will be imposing fines on three churches for meeting for worship services this past weekend.
According to the statewide stay-at-home order, churches are considered “nonessential.”
I understand that believers can worship everywhere, anywhere and at any time – but why are churches considered “nonessential” but liquor stores and pot shops deemed essential?
Illinois isn’t the first state to be so heavy handed and employ a double standard when dealing with people of faith.
This past weekend, a federal judge in North Carolina issued a temporary restraining order against their governor’s uneven executive order.
The Tar Heel State announced that retail establishments were allowed to open so long as they limited their occupancy to 50% of capacity – but churches weren’t allowed to have more than 10 people in service.
What Governors Pritzker of Illinois and Cooper of North Carolina don’t seem to understand is that the Constitution’s First Amendment doesn’t allow governments to treat churches differently in this regard than other businesses or organizations.
I’ve heard of one state’s governor directing churches to even practice physical distancing in their parking lots – parking every other car, leaving an open spot in between. How silly can you get? Costco, Walmart and other retail establishments face no such restriction.
It’s important for churches to be both responsible and smart as they transition back to a semblance of normalcy. As believers our first freedoms are precious and subject to and deserving of a rigorous defense.
Of great concern to me is the wide opening of bars, liquor stores and pot shops as compared to the highly restrictive management of the reopening of churches.
What we’re seeing is the undervaluing of spiritual meetings and the promotion and protection of vices.
One of the arguments in favor of keeping liquor stores open is that the loss of alcohol will make a bad situation much worse for some people. But people who champion that perspective and ignore the good that communal worship provides are either ignorant or hostile to faith.
Is that the type of country you want to live in, where booze and marijuana are deemed essential but public Bible reading and corporate prayer is not? Not me.
This unfortunate and unconstitutional trend reminds me of the ACLU going after the Todd Becker Foundation, a faith-based ministry in Nebraska, for discouraging public school teenagers from using drugs and alcohol. Some ideological radicals would rather see a kid die of a drug overdose than be exposed to Judeo-Christian values.
Good Christians are good citizens, but believers shouldn’t be treated as second-class citizens either. As U.S. Attorney General William Barr recently noted, there is no “pandemic exception” to the United States Constitution.
Some governors are clearly championing vices over virtues – and that should concern us all.