Government lockdown orders have forced many churches and other religious assemblies to cease all activities at their respective houses of worship to prevent the spread of the virus. However, the First Amendment of the Constitution enshrines religious liberty as a guarantee, and it also protects the freedom of assembly. By preventing parishioners from gathering, state and local political officials are technically violating two separate parts of the First Amendment.
According to the system now in place, church has been deemed an unessential service, while liquor stores, abortion clinics, and drive-thru restaurants are still necessary businesses and allowed to continue operations.
Now, it seems like the campaign against religious assemblies has escalated to a shocking degree. On Thursday, a Mississippi church was tragically burned to the ground in response to the church filing a lawsuit against its municipality in an attempt to conduct church services once again.
USA Today reported, “A church in Mississippi was destroyed by a suspected arson fire, about a month after its pastor filed a lawsuit challenging the city of Holly Springs on gathering restrictions amid the coronavirus outbreak.
First Pentecostal Church in Holly Springs, Mississippi, burned down Wednesday morning, news outlets reported. When investigators from the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office got to the scene, they found graffiti in the church parking lot that read: ‘Bet you stay home now, you hypokrites.’
‘We’ve kind of racked our brains and we have no idea,’ Jerry Waldrop, the pastor of the church, said. “No enemies that we know of. We don’t know anyone that we even think could be capable of doing something like this.”
Waldrop filed a lawsuit against the city of Holly Springs last month, alleging police officers had disrupted a church Bible study and Easter service. Holly Springs City Attorney Shirley Byers said nearly 40 worshipers inside the church building were not practicing social distancing on April 10 when a violation citation was issued for the church.”
Elsewhere, a pastor in Baltimore is standing up to anti- First Amendment enforcement in his city as well.
Fox News reported, “Stacey Shiflett, pastor of the 400-member Calvary Baptist Church in Dundalk, held a Wednesday night service. With more than 100 congregants in the 600-capacity sanctuary, Calvary was in compliance with Hogan’s order but in defiance of the Baltimore County Department of Health and Human Services’ order.
‘Either we have liberty to worship or we have permission to worship,’ Shiflett told Fox News about his decision. ‘It has become abundantly clear that if we settle for permission, we will never have liberty again.’
The Baptist pastor posted a video of the shredding on Twitter, in which he can be heard preaching: ‘With this cease-and-desist letter in my hand, the Bible says to the New Testament church ‘not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together as the manner of some is, but so much more as you see the day approaching,’ and the closer we get to Jesus coming back, the more church we ought to be having, not less church.’”
Last month, in Tampa Bay, Florida, a pastor was arrested for holding a church service. USA Today reported, “Officials arrested the pastor of a megachurch after detectives said he held two Sunday services with hundreds of people and violated a safer-at-home order in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
According to jail records, Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne turned himself in to authorities Monday afternoon in Hernando County, where he lives. He was charged with unlawful assembly and violation of a public health emergency order. Bail was set at $500, according to the jail’s website, and he was released after posting bond.”
Churchgoers have justifiably had enough. They are tired of having their right to the “free exercise of religion” denied. Our country was founded on religious liberty and that right is not negotiable, even during a pandemic.