By John Daniel Davidson:
Churchgoers across the country are reasserting their fundamental rights of conscience—rights that too many political leaders have forgotten or denied.
On Friday, President Trump said churches and houses of worship are “essential” and called on governors nationwide to allow them to open this weekend. If they don’t, Trump said he would “override” governors, citing forthcoming guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In remarks Thursday, the president criticized some governors who have “deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential” but not churches. “It’s not right. So I’m correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential.”
Trump is right, but churches are already taking action on their own. This week in Minnesota, thousands of Catholics and Lutherans will gather in their churches in defiance of the governor, whose plan for reopening the state relegates churches and houses of worship to the status of tattoo parlors and hair salons.
It’s about time. Democratic Gov. Tim Walz is plainly violating the Constitution with his order, which limits attendance at religious services to 10 people, inside or outside. Meanwhile, places like Walmart and Home Depot and a host of other types of businesses deemed “essential” by the governor’s office are allowed to operate at half-capacity.
On its face, that’s discrimination against religious exercise, and it’s illegal. Someone should tell Walz that you can’t just issue edicts that treat churches differently than other entities and expect to get away with it.
Minnesota Archbishop Bernard Hebda and Rev. Lucas Woodford, president of the Minnesota South District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, as well as dozens of smaller evangelical churches across the state, are unquestionably correct in their view that the governor has no authority in law to prevent them from gathering. (These churches, it’s worth noting, plan to comply with all social distancing and other safety guidelines, including limiting their churches to one-third capacity—going above and beyond what’ required for malls and other retail stores.)
Read more: The Federalist
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