In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions on church services and other gatherings have become a top religious freedom issue. This has led to lawsuits against a handful of states, questioning whether protecting public health overrules the constitutional rights of Americans.
"If I don't exercise my right, I feel that I will lose my right and my right to religion is one that has been fought for for centuries," said Randall David, the plaintiff in a Kentucky lawsuit.
Kentucky and eight other states have been slapped with lawsuits, accused of going too far in cracking down on religious liberty.
Alliance Defending Freedom is representing Mississippi churchgoers, suing local government officials after being fined $500 each for attending a drive-in church service.
"It's just funny how they can pick and choose winners and losers, who can stay open, Walmart's always packed, Home Depot, Lowes, grocery stores are always packed, but for some reason suddenly it's dangerous if you go to church," Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. told CBN News.
Tuesday in New York City, crowds packed public parks to watch a flyover tribute by the Thunder Birds and Blue Angels – the city doing nothing to call people out for violating social distancing orders in that case. Later that night, however, the mayor issued a strong warning to Orthodox Jews gathered in Brooklyn for the funeral of a local rabbi.
Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeting out:
My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed. I have instructed the NYPD to proceed immediately to summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups. This is about stopping this disease and saving lives. Period.
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) April 29, 2020
In a memo, Attorney General William Barr has urged the nation's federal prosecutors to "be on the lookout" for state and local coronavirus-related restrictions that could be unconstitutional.
As many churches, this weekend, take part in what's being called "Re-Open Church Sunday," groups like the Family Research Council urge people to fellowship safely, using appropriate sanitation practices and adhering to social distancing guidelines.
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