Governor Brian Kemp delivers an address on the current state of the coronavirus response in Georgia on Monday, March 23.
Last Friday, Alliance Defending Freedom made a video to address a variety of issues around the coronavirus. The organization focused specifically on pastors’ questions around government restrictions and how we should respond.
Ryan Tucker, ADF senior counsel, answered questions the organization has received from many churches across the nation over the past few days. See the video here. The COVID-19 outbreak has brought many uncertainties and questions, especially regarding what churches can and cannot do at this time.
The bottom line related to the restriction of religious assembly is that the government has the authority to do so, as long as there is a “compelling governmental interest or reason” and as long as it is done in the “least restrictive means possible.” There is no doubt that the health and safety of our citizens does constitute a compelling reason for the restrictions that are being made in our state and nation.
The good news in all of this is that Governor Brian Kemp is a fellow believer who takes very seriously the prospect of participating in a worship service online. Since the beginning of this voyage into uncharted territory, the governor has been committed to maintaining a balance that protects the public health concerns and preserves as much freedom as possible.
In Governor Kemp’s most recent press conference he restated and has now ordered that there should be no social gatherings (including churches) of ten or more people unless you can have at least six feet between each person at all times. In a discussion with the governor later, I verified his position. There is no doubt that he prefers that services and meetings be done online. In those cases where a meeting is taking place, for example, there should be no shaking hands, hugging, or handing out bulletins.
The additional good news in the midst of this difficulty is what ADF Regional Director Harrison Smith said in a recent email, “We also share encouragement from the ministries we’ve been in touch with and how the Lord is moving! … While these are unprecedented times, we believe we have an incredible opportunity as the Church to respond to the needs of the community and that God is going to move in and through us.”
I wanted to share this information with you moving forward, so we would know what our Constitutional Rights are and to be confident in ministering to those needs around us.
Mike Griffin serves as Public Affairs representative of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.