COVID-19 Shutdowns of Churches: Showdown over Religious Freedom

COVID-19 Shutdowns of Churches: Showdown over Religious Freedom

by Dennis Jamison, 5/14/2020

Demonstrations of average citizens, not DNC or Soros’ paid protestors, are continuing to express just how fed up citizens are of a lockdown that seems to have moved well past its purpose in many states and localities across America. Several Democrat governors are showing their true colors as they cannot resist exercising their executive power over hairdressers, ministers, and regular people of faith. Prisoners are allowed to go free from prison; yet, people of faith are prevented by law to leave their homes to go and worship God. Several thousands of years ago, that same scenario played out in the land of Egypt between an all powerful Pharaoh and a simple shepherd named Moses.

Americans are witnessing the differences firsthand in leadership style between several of the “Democratic” governors and the Republican governors in relation to the handling of the  COVID-19 Pandemic. Americans are witnessing many Democrat governors and other elected and unelected “Democratic” leaders disregard, and even trample basic freedoms in the Land of the Free. It is evidenced that this phenomenon is not limited    to governors, but the people can see control freaks at every level of government. What that says is that the elected officials and the appointees in their administrations, do not really believe they are elected to serve the will of the people.

The COVID-19 “pandemic,” defined rather narrowly, seems to be a legitimate way to absolutely control people under the legal authority of whatever administration that gets the urge to put “shutdown” or “lockdown” orders in place. Most Americans, however, do not pay too much attention to the loss of freedoms that do not involve them that directly.

If a tree falls over in the middle of a forest and no one hears it, did it make any sound? Did it really happen? The question is a philosophical query posed to stimulate thought, originally brought up by Bishop George Berkeley. The Irish philosopher developed the theory of “immaterialism,” or “subjective idealism” that essentially denied the existence of material or matter. He believed that material objects like trees and houses existed in the minds of the ones who perceived such objects. So, if a material object was not able to be perceived, it did not really exist. This may explain much about “invisible enemies.”

One of Berkeley’s main opponents was an English philosopher by the name of John Locke, a key thinker in the inspiration stimulating the American Revolution. Locke was instrumental in developing much of the intellectual foundation for the Enlightenment.  Locke believed that there should be a social contract between people and government and that governments were obligated to serve the people, by protecting life, liberty, and property. He also seriously believed in limiting the power of government. So, what if these two philosophers said a lot, and no one paid any attention? Did they really say anything?

Well, John Locke’s beliefs in government influenced Thomas Jefferson’s ideals in the Declaration of Independence. So, while both Berkeley and Locke were contemporaries, alive in the century before, both died well before the American War for Independence. Yet, few people remember Berkeley, while many Americans remember Locke because his ideals were at the heart of American Independence. His ideas were manifested into the Land of the Free because the Declaration of Independence became a manifesto for human freedom. However, there was more that led to American Independence.

If ideas were enough, why did it take 5,000 years before such a transformation in human life could come about? Ironically, the simplistic answer lies in Berkely’s belief system. Unless one receives a liberating thought, and acts upon that thought, that idea is never transformed into a substantial reality. If no one paid attention to Locke’s ideas, would the United States of America ever come into existence?

This question can also be applied to the struggle for independence – both then and now. Such a question is able to be applied to the struggle for freedom – then and now. How many Americans have recently heard the cry for freedom of the people of Hong Kong recently? How many American citizens heard the cry for freedom of the people of Venezuela recently – or the people of North Korea? No sounds emanating from the oppressed people of the world? It must be embarrassing for the MSM to ignore or downplay the Socialist and Communist oppression in the world. But it does not mean it does not exist!

Closer to home, do Americans realize the cry for freedom among the people of faith in the United States of America in the twenty-first century? People may watch a rare report via the mainstream media about Christians not being allowed to go to church during this pandemic — even if they are in their cars in parking lots. Yet, MSM coverage remains rare. So, is religious freedom in danger in the world?

According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which puts out an annual report around this time of year, there are several countries that engaged in or tolerated egregious violations of religious liberty. The 2019 report called attention to the attacks on mosques in New Zealand, the churches in Sri Lanka and the synagogues in the United States. There are roughly 16 nations that engaged in or tolerated egregious violations and China sits prominently on that list. Nevertheless, religious freedom is being undermined in the backyard of the good old U.S.A. Especially in 2020, big brother is restricting religious freedom in a very overt way, and governors are getting away with the restrictions and regulations placed upon churches or their congregants.

In 2020, big brother has arrested hairdressers and jailed them for trying to survive in the midst the shutdown mandates for “non-essential” businesses. But more importantly, in some localities, Christian ministers have been arrested for defying the government rules  restricting freedom of worship. The logic, which is not necessarily logic, is not always logical. While much of the lockdown mandates seem logical and reasonable, the other mandates that violate First Amendment freedoms are practically ignored. It is not totally surprising because many governors no longer truly believe in following the Constitution.

When ministers are being arrested and congregants are fined for gathering in parking lots in their cars, it is being seen and heard by those who still value religious freedom, or the freedom of conscience — freedom to worship. This gets us back to Moses. But, it also gets us back to why the Pilgrims fled to the New World: ministers were being arrested and congregations were living in fear just because of what they believed. The Pilgrims were really Separatists who wanted nothing to do with the Church of England. We seem to have come full circle in 400 years!

Those Separatists were of the faith that they needed to pursue their freedom to worship that they would risk their “fortunes,” their familiarity with their lives in England (comfort zones), and their very survival ( truly, their lives). They left their customary surroundings and comfort zones to go off into unknown territory – risking their very lives. In short, they did what patriot Patrick Henry proclaimed in 1775: “Give me liberty,or give me death!” That was the cry for religious freedom in those days. It was more than an intellectual perception or acknowledgement of the egregious violations of religious liberty. Henry, and the brilliant and brave men of the founding generation not only shouted their faith, like the Separatists, they lived it out.

American  Independence was born via strife, and brave and brilliant men gave their lives that this nation might have come into existence. Patrick Henry’s provocative speech voiced sentiments that inspired the revolutionary generation. “Give me Liberty, or give me death” was proclaimed in St. John’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia on March 20, 1775. The churches are alive and aflame in the mid-1770s. They were not only the mixing pot of radical ideas, but provided the impetus for action. How serious  are the people of faith in this time? The words of Henry can provide a measuring stick:

“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me Liberty or give me death!”

photo credit: Notices from the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville in English and Spanish are taped to the doors of Mary, Mother of the Church Thursday informing worshippers that weekday and Sunday Masses in the chapel are suspended due to COVID-19. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

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