This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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Freedom of Religion is NOT Freedom From Religion
Most states nowadays have a “shelter in place” order, meaning stay at home at much as humanly possible. It’s been a lackadaisical order except for a bunch of “boomer Karens” snitching on neighbors. That was until some states started to enforce this order with fines and jail time. Beaches, parks, “non-essential” businesses, sporting events, concerts, and even churches have halted any gatherings. People have been using Zoom to reach out and connect with other people.
With social distancing as the motivating factor for all of this pandemic, creativity begins to show itself. What happens when the laws are followed and you’re still fined? That was the case at Temple Baptist Church in Greenville, Mississippi. They had an incident of over-zealousness, and not the faith kind.
“Shall Not Be Infringed” or “Bend the Knee”?
If an order is in place to keep people away at a six-foot distance, isn’t that the basis of what social distancing is? If people are in their cars, by order of the definition of social distancing, isn’t that following the rules? As long as interpersonal contact is not happening? If a shelter in place order is happening where social distancing is occurring, wouldn’t law enforcement resources be better spent elsewhere?
Temple Baptist held its services on a Wednesday, as congregants met in the parking lot, in their cars, listening to the radio. Greenville police started to issue $500 tickets to everyone on the lot. The Democratic mayor issued an Executive Order for all church buildings to be closed. This somehow included ceasing and desisting the drive-in services.
Other Cities Ramping Up the Authoritarianism
It seems like the coffers in other places are getting pretty low. In the town of Magnolia, Texas, they seem to have targeted churches. In an effort to generate more revenue, area churches and non-profits are finding themselves paying three times more in their water bill. Once again, Jeremy Dy, special counsel for litigation and communication at First Liberty Institute steps in, as three area churches are suing the city.
Understandably, the question becomes, “Well, can a church, a Christian community, sue?” The short answer, Biblically, is don’t sue your fellow Christians. However if a local government is acting pagan, then by all means do so, though there is no precedence set in the Bible for that. The Magnolia government is attempting to steal. Targeting the water rate hikes to all churches in order to generate revenue is criminal.
Local Magnolia area churches are calling out the local government. Congregants of Greenville, despite getting ratted on by neighboring people, plan on practicing civil disobedience. They will do the drive-in method for Easter Sunday services. According to Dy during an interview with local WJTV12 News, “Protecting religious liberty is essential, even during a pandemic. Americans can tolerate a lot if it means demonstrating love for their fellow man, but they will not — nor should not — tolerate churchgoers being ticketed by the police, for following CDC guidelines at church. This has to stop now.”
Temple Baptist wasn’t the only church to get a dose of tyranny. Pastor Charles Hamilton Jr. of King James Bible Baptist Church (also in Greenville), stated that while petitioning the Mayor to lift the order, his church will also meet. It is their First Amendment right to do so. The amendment dictates that the government shall not infringe upon the right to assemble in order to practice their faith freely. This is a Constitutional protection, and no pandemic induced Executive “shelter in place” Order supersedes it. These pastors are getting it, as Dy said, “This has to stop now.”