By Alliance Defending Freedom
SCOTTSDALE, AZ – Churches around the nation are experiencing heavy COVID-19 regulations that are not being put on other businesses such as casinos and restaurants.
During the height of the pandemic, the city of Wilmington, N.C. banned drive-in church services, even though such services were never identified as an unsafe risk by health authorities.
This became a recurring issue in numerous states.
The City of Greenville, Miss. also banned drive-in church services, and police officers issued $500 tickets to attendees who were listening to their pastor’s sermon through their car radios in the church parking lot.
Meanwhile, drive-in restaurants like the Sonic down the street from the church faced no such harassment.
Churches in Chattanooga, Tenn. and Kent County, Michigan experienced similar regulations from their officials, while restaurants didn’t.
Kansas forbade churches from holding gatherings of 10 or more people, while allowing secular establishments, such as bars, restaurants, libraries, and shopping malls, to exceed that number.
Mike Griffin, Public Affairs representative for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, said while it is good such cases haven’t made their way to Georgia yet, vigilance is warrented.
“With all that is going on in other states, it should remind us all about how thankful we ought to be to live in the state of Georgia! There is not a single case in Georgia like [these],” he added.
“Therefore, we need to thank the Lord for governors like Brian Kemp who believe in the proper balance of religious freedom and public safety. Moving forward in the future, we need to make sure that we vote for and elect leaders who believe in the priority of the First Amendment!”
These are far from isolated situations, though.
In Wake County, North Carolina, churches were prohibited from taking in-person tithes and distributing communion. But restaurants could hand out food and exchange money.
The Town of Dedham, Mass. sent a cease-and-desist letter to a church that was planning a meeting of 10 or fewer people – a gathering size allowed under the Massachusetts governor’s order.
In Oregon, a church auditorium could host an exercise class of any size if attendees practiced social distancing, but fines and jail time awaited pastors if 25 people congregated in the same auditorium for church services.
Indiana government officials restricted the capacity of churches to lower levels than similarly situated businesses.
Even now, with things reopening around the nation and restrictions loosening, churches are battling their state and local governments to gather, while other businesses have more liberties.
Nevada has chosen to reopen casinos – at 50 percent capacity. But the government forbids more than 50 people to gather to worship in church, regardless of the church building’s size.
“The Supreme Court’s 4 -5 decision on July 25, shows us what a dangerous time we’re living in. The fact that the court upheld a Nevada governor’s decision to require churches to operate under more strict scrutiny than casinos, is very troubling!” Griffin commented.
Washington originally limited religious gatherings to 25 percent capacity or 50 individuals, whichever is less. Churches in some parts of the state can now gather in greater numbers, but they are still receiving “unequal treatment compared to many secular businesses,” such as restaurants, professional offices, manufacturing facilities, and even cannabis retailers, Alliance Defending Freedom’s Communication’s Specialist John Harding, reported.
Washington’s Governor Inslee even called spiritual gatherings “COVID-19 ‘superspreader’ events.”
“When the government treats churches worse than casinos, gyms, and bars in its COVID-19 response, we should all be concerned about the message it is sending and the real impact it is having on faith communities,” Harding said. “After all, the government has a duty to uphold the First Amendment, and it should not be singling out churches with extra regulations.”
The crisis these regulations is putting the church in reminds Americans that, “Public officials certainly have the authority to protect health and public safety, but the First Amendment – including the free exercise of religion – is not suspended during times of crisis,” he shared.
“And unfortunately, it seems that some governments across the country are all too eager to shut down churches and single them out for worse treatment.”
Churches seeking more information on how to handle these situations should contact Alliance Defending Freedom.
Index Associate Editor Myriah Snyder contributed to this article.