Chicago, IL – Over the weekend, hundreds of people in the Chicago area attended church services. On most days, that would never be a story worth writing. In our current situation, it is. It’s become an issue because of the mandatory stay home orders issued by various governors.
According to Fox News, the City of Chicago is now planning to issue citations for anyone who attended church services. The city has not yet cited anyone. Churches in the area had sought relief through a temporary restraining order. Their request was denied.
The story doesn’t stop in Chicago. Churchgoers across the country have faced issues in attempting to exercise their first amendment right. Most states have restrictions prohibiting gathering of individuals in groups of approximatley 10 or more.
The stay orders highlight a discrepancy that has taken place among the stay orders. While hundreds are allowed to enter retail establishments, people are unable to enter into a place of worship and practice their religion.
One recent exception to this is in North Carolina. A federal judge recently sided with churches that they be allowed to have services, while maintaining appropriate protections. Governor Roy Cooper (D) has said that he will not appeal the ruling.
The threat by Chicago to fine individuals for attending church services is not new. In Mississippi, churchgoers were fined $500 for sitting in their cars and listening to church services on the radio. The Justice Department came out in support of the church over the events.
Other threats were made previously in Kentucky and in Indiana. In both instances, threats were either made for citations and fines or they were issued.
This is a drastic change from the country that we all knew just a few months ago. As churchgoers across the country attended their services in January, many would have never dreamed that they could potentially be fined or cited in April or May for attending church.
It goes to show how quickly things changed. It shows how quickly the fear of the coronavirus developed. But we also see how precious our freedoms actually are.
I am not advocating for a completely careless opening of the churches and society. But I do believe that these constitutional rights are protected, even in the midst of a pandemic. There is no reason that a church cannot hold services by practicing safe social distancing and working to control capacity.
Across North Carolina, churches did just that on Sunday. Many opened their doors for the first time in 2 months for parishioners. While some did not attend the services in person due to their potential risk, many healthy churchgoers enjoyed their first in person service in some time.
In cases like North Carolina, the stay orders were enforced differently for businesses as was for churches. This was the grounds for the temporary order. Other orders are expected across the country in the coming days, but many of them may fail to receive a ruling as stay orders are relaxed.
There is no grounds to prohibit the practice of religious liberty if that practice can be done safely. No one should be advocating for the careless opening of society. We have the ability to maintain our freedoms, while being morally conscious and personally responsible. Attending church should never be a crime.
It is no mistake that religious liberty was the very first amendment to the Constitution. Our founding fathers realized that religious freedom is what all other freedom is built upon. It is the foundation of our nation’s existence. To remove that freedom will cause our entire nation to crumble.