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prisonchaplain

Why states & localities are failing on religious liberties

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When can government order churches to stop, legally? What constitutes an emergency? As this pandemic rages, and seems to have become too political, I've had my cynical moments. Church-goers vote the wrong way, so governors and mayors keep the liquor flowing but shut us down!

Sadly, I should have had more answers than many. I'm a chaplain. I've lived/breathed RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act) for well over 20 years now. Governments may restrict religious liberties when there is a compelling government interest--such as public safety--such as COVID-19. Indeed, most churches, including my own, have complied. What irks are the inconsistencies. Restrictions must not single out religion.

I found the linked article extremely insightful. I am @prisonchaplain and I endorse this message. https://www.christianpost.com/voices/why-are-so-many-states-violating-religious-liberty.html

Edited by prisonchaplain

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@anatess2 I get that answer, but, social pressure can be deadly. Scared people will literally beat someone to death if they think government is right about restrictions and some liberty-nut is threatening to kill all the neighbor kids with his/her COVID-19. So, short of arming to prove a point, the article offers some great insights . . .

Edited by prisonchaplain

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5 minutes ago, prisonchaplain said:

@anatess2 I get that answer, but, social pressure can be deadly. Scared people will literally beat someone to death if they think government is right about restrictions and some liberty-nut is threatening to kill all the neighbor kids with his/her COVID-19. So, short of arming to prove a point, the article offers some great insights . . .

That is why the USA is not a blanket democracy.  The "will of the people" still has to conform to the US Constitution.  Mob rule is tempered by law and, when brought to extreme, 2A.

Edited by anatess2

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7 minutes ago, anatess2 said:

when brought to extreme, 2A.

This got me to thinking.  Ultimately, it always rests on the 2A.  That is really what the Founders declared when they mutually pledged their LIVES...  It was high treason.  It was also a blood oath.

The founders were not simply fringe men with fringe ideas and questionable mental stability.  These were leaders, well respected in their communities and the nation.  And when they formally organized, they inspired enough others that it became a powerful movement.  And that eventually had to be backed up by bullets.

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I love 2A. My bias favors 1A even more. RFRA expands and defines it. "Compelling government interest" does not, for example, mean that Gov (D) gets no votes from church-goers and so decides to shut churches down. However, it can allow for temporary restrictions during a pandemic--if those are applied broadly. So, again, s/he should not be able to specifically shut down churches while keeping liquor stores open. Again, the article does a much better job of laying this out. However, there are emergencies that allow government to temporarily suspend certain liberties.

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Perhaps you can shed some light on why virtual sevices aren't enough. Online sermons can't be that hard to set up, nor online "collection plates" if funding is an issue. Not trying to be snarky, I just feel like it would be pretty easy for churches to continue functioning remotely. The only setback I can think of is the difficulty in distributing communion/sacrament for churches that adhere to those practices, but it seems to me this isn't the case for a lot of the churches that have been vocal against having their physical buildings closed (I could be wrong?).

 

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Guest MormonGator
18 minutes ago, Godless said:

Perhaps you can shed some light on why virtual sevices aren't enough. Online sermons can't be that hard to set up, nor online "collection plates" if funding is an issue. Not trying to be snarky, I just feel like it would be pretty easy for churches to continue functioning remotely. The only setback I can think of is the difficulty in distributing communion/sacrament for churches that adhere to those practices, but it seems to me this isn't the case for a lot of the churches that have been vocal against having their physical buildings closed (I could be wrong?).

 

In fairness @Godless, a part of church attendance, even if people won't admit it, is the social aspect. You want to be around people and interact with them. No, it's not all of it, but it is an important part. 

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9 minutes ago, MormonGator said:

In fairness @Godless, a part of church attendance, even if people won't admit it, is the social aspect. You want to be around people and interact with them. No, it's not all of it, but it is an important part. 

I have no problem admitting it.  The LDS scriptures, at least, are full of references to the saints communing with and teaching the gospel to and generally strengthening each other.  I haven’t really tried to parse out how much of that comes from the Bible versus specifically LDS scriptures, but I imagine our mainline Christian brethren feel similarly.

Its not “enough” for me to only be permitted to visit with my church congregation via videoconference for the foreseeable future, any more than it would be “enough“ for me to only be permitted to visit with my parents via videoconference for the foreseeable future. 

Edited by Just_A_Guy

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Guest MormonGator
Just now, Just_A_Guy said:

I have no problem admitting it.  The LDS scriptures, at least, are full of references to the saints communing with and teaching the gospel to and generally strengthening each other.  I haven’t really tried to parse out how much of that comes from the Bible versus specifically LDS scriptures, but I imagine our mainline brethren feel similarly.

Its not “enough” for me to visit with my church congregation via videoconference, any more than it’s “enough“ for me to only visit with my parents via videoconference.

Oh I agree totally. I've taken seven weeks + of virtual Tae Kwan Do classes and, while I'm thankful they are offering it, I really, really miss the actual real life classes in the dojang. I went there a few days ago to pick up some stuff and I almost got emotional just going in.

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36 minutes ago, Godless said:

Perhaps you can shed some light on why virtual sevices aren't enough. Online sermons can't be that hard to set up, nor online "collection plates" if funding is an issue. Not trying to be snarky, I just feel like it would be pretty easy for churches to continue functioning remotely. The only setback I can think of is the difficulty in distributing communion/sacrament for churches that adhere to those practices, but it seems to me this isn't the case for a lot of the churches that have been vocal against having their physical buildings closed (I could be wrong?).

 

Indeed, that's what we're doing. It is enough, if liquor stores and marijuana shops are treated likewise. We're all about rendering unto Caesar. I'd even argue that we erred (quite badly, actually) in not supporting the Civil Rights movement more passionately due to our predisposition to obey governing authorities. Long-term, most religions are relational. We want to gather--to be together. We are told in the New Testament not to forsake the assembling together. I'll argue further that I do not truly believe most state and local governments (leaders) are intentionally being dismissive of faith communities. However, it is a bad look when churches are named specifically for the most stringent requirements while others are just as specifically exempted. It's even worse when the leaders of those communities have a record of difficult relationships with faith communities (read: they believe they don't get many votes from them).

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46 minutes ago, prisonchaplain said:

Indeed, that's what we're doing. It is enough, if liquor stores and marijuana shops are treated likewise. We're all about rendering unto Caesar. I'd even argue that we erred (quite badly, actually) in not supporting the Civil Rights movement more passionately due to our predisposition to obey governing authorities. Long-term, most religions are relational. We want to gather--to be together. We are told in the New Testament not to forsake the assembling together. I'll argue further that I do not truly believe most state and local governments (leaders) are intentionally being dismissive of faith communities. However, it is a bad look when churches are named specifically for the most stringent requirements while others are just as specifically exempted. It's even worse when the leaders of those communities have a record of difficult relationships with faith communities (read: they believe they don't get many votes from them).

I still don't understand why governments deem it safe to enter Walmart with the x-marks-the-spot markers on the floor but doesn't deem it safe likewise for people to enter Churches who can abide by the same requirements.

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8 minutes ago, anatess2 said:

I still don't understand why governments deem it safe to enter Walmart with the x-marks-the-spot markers on the floor but doesn't deem it safe likewise for people to enter Churches who can abide by the same requirements.

Because they don't shop at Walmart. Personally, plan B is to go into Walmart with a hazmat suit on. Plan A? Walmart.com.

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4 hours ago, prisonchaplain said:

Indeed, that's what we're doing. It is enough, if liquor stores and marijuana shops are treated likewise.

Marijuana shops are still illegal in most states, and delivery/to-go laws for alcohol vary by state. Even so, a couple of the more prominent liquor stores in my area spent over a month (voluntarily) doing strictly curbside business, with one of them offering delivery from their flagship location. 

3 hours ago, anatess2 said:

I still don't understand why governments deem it safe to enter Walmart with the x-marks-the-spot markers on the floor but doesn't deem it safe likewise for people to enter Churches who can abide by the same requirements.

It's not safe, technically, but it's considered a necessary risk because Walmart sells essential commodities like food and hygiene products. 

In the case of churches, what happens when more people show up for your service than you can safely accommodate with proper social distancing? After all, we're talking about a setting that normally features closely-spaced seating, sometimes even stadium-style in the case of megachurches. Will churches have the discipline to turn people away when they have empty seats?

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3 hours ago, Godless said:

Marijuana shops are still illegal in most states, and delivery/to-go laws for alcohol vary by state. Even so, a couple of the more prominent liquor stores in my area spent over a month (voluntarily) doing strictly curbside business, with one of them offering delivery from their flagship location. 

It's not safe, technically, but it's considered a necessary risk because Walmart sells essential commodities like food and hygiene products. 

In the case of churches, what happens when more people show up for your service than you can safely accommodate with proper social distancing? After all, we're talking about a setting that normally features closely-spaced seating, sometimes even stadium-style in the case of megachurches. Will churches have the discipline to turn people away when they have empty seats?

Purely local perspective here--but we live in a highly politicized era. You get that this is a bad look. We have casinos that never closed. The reason? Native lands. Liquor stores--like you said, curbside delivery, social distancing followed, etc. Walmart--essential items for sale. We all get it. However, put together, our blue state allows casinos, liquor stores and Wallie World, but declares the church NON-ESSENTIAL. If I were a conspiracy nut I'd suggest that drunkards, stoners and gamblers vote Democrat and church-goers less so. I'm not that cynical, but your have to get that this is irksome.

To answer your direct question, yes we would have the discipline. We did so before the total shut down. In our church's case the drive-in approach would not work, so we're totally virtual until the opening is complete (mid-July). Otherwise, the chairs get pulled and spread out, or we add services and obey limits. Honestly, part of our theology is to be law-abiding.

 

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12 hours ago, Godless said:

Marijuana shops are still illegal in most states, and delivery/to-go laws for alcohol vary by state. Even so, a couple of the more prominent liquor stores in my area spent over a month (voluntarily) doing strictly curbside business, with one of them offering delivery from their flagship location. 

It's not safe, technically, but it's considered a necessary risk because Walmart sells essential commodities like food and hygiene products. 

Yeah.  Only governments can make such a dumb assessment as to think spirituality is non-essential.  Communism much?

 

Quote

In the case of churches, what happens when more people show up for your service than you can safely accommodate with proper social distancing? After all, we're talking about a setting that normally features closely-spaced seating, sometimes even stadium-style in the case of megachurches. Will churches have the discipline to turn people away when they have empty seats?

In the case of WALMART, what happens when more people show up for your service than you can safely accommodate with proper social distancing?  After all, we're talking about a setting that normally features closely-spaced shopping.

Yep.  Hubris of a government who pick and choose who THEY deem are "essential" and can be trusted with public safety.  Think about it, they just blanket stripped you of your means to feed yourself because they think what you do is non-essential while they continue to collect from the public purse.  US Constitution, my dear.  Time for everybody to go back to US History class and study it.

Now tell me... how many people died because they went shopping at Walmart?

Edited by anatess2

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16 hours ago, prisonchaplain said:

Because they don't shop at Walmart. Personally, plan B is to go into Walmart with a hazmat suit on. Plan A? Walmart.com.

Yep.  If they think Churches can make do with online service, then Walmart can do the same.

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On ‎5‎/‎14‎/‎2020 at 10:25 PM, prisonchaplain said:

Purely local perspective here--but we live in a highly politicized era. You get that this is a bad look. We have casinos that never closed. The reason? Native lands. Liquor stores--like you said, curbside delivery, social distancing followed, etc. Walmart--essential items for sale. We all get it. However, put together, our blue state allows casinos, liquor stores and Wallie World, but declares the church NON-ESSENTIAL. If I were a conspiracy nut I'd suggest that drunkards, stoners and gamblers vote Democrat and church-goers less so. I'm not that cynical, but your have to get that this is irksome.

To answer your direct question, yes we would have the discipline. We did so before the total shut down. In our church's case the drive-in approach would not work, so we're totally virtual until the opening is complete (mid-July). Otherwise, the chairs get pulled and spread out, or we add services and obey limits. Honestly, part of our theology is to be law-abiding.

 

I think there are two fold problems that would be had with opening churches.

#1 - They are one the BIG primary vectors of infection for disease.  Due to being in an enclosed space with many others, normally for over an hour, it can spread things (like the flu, a cold, or even COVID-19) very easily.  It is similar to schools and military barracks also being BIG vectors for the spread of diseases.

#2 - This may be somewhat easier to deal with if churches would settle on TRUE social distancing.  That would mean perhaps, as Walmart seemed to attempt to do (not sure it was successful or not) that you only have 1 person for every 1000 square feet of a chapel.  This could mean a service of only two or three people in many chapels, less in others.  It is still doable if the pastor would perform something like 50 - 100 services on the Sabbath and throughout the week. 

Large Chapels (I've seen some which have 20,000 square feet chapels or larger) would have an easier time with larger groups, but most chapels would need to perform a LOT of services to keep people that separated and do a LOT of cleaning in between services (which also would cost money).

Unfortunately, people don't want to do that when they go to a service.  Many go to services NOT for the worship, but more for the social aspect. 

Even if you cut that down to 1 individual for every 250 square feet, I don't think most people going to church would want to agree to those types of social distancing numbers for a church service unfortunately.

I think it's doable (and easily) but I don't think people would actually do that until they've been in an area hit hard by the virus (in which case they may even object to the opening of the churches to try to stem the epidemic in their area).  Too many people already feel they are immune to it or that their family and friends are so that they do not take it seriously in the first place.

Still, Casinos and Bars should not be open if the churches are not open...IMO.

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