In this time of restrictions on social interaction, what are a church's legal rights during the coronavirus pandemic? OneNewsNow spoke with a Christian attorney about that.
The federal government has set down fairly strict guidelines for social interaction; states and local authorities have added to them and, in some cases, have even made some of them mandatory. California, for example, is locked down: essential businesses like banks, grocery stores, pharmacies, food banks, gas stations, and the like will remain open; but churches are not on the list.
These types of restrictive measures could be coming to other states as well. In an interview with OneNewsNow, Pacific Justice Institute president Brad Dacus laid out the legal landscape for churches. First of all, he recommends following local authorities' directions – in general – when it comes to holding worship services.
"[The courts have held that] even fundamental rights are not absolute rights …," he explains, "and specifically the free exercise of religion, the freedom of assembly."
Pastors, he says, will probably not be prosecuted if they violate a ban in order to serve an elderly church member, for example – but they might be.
"The general rule is they need to count the cost," the attorney counsels. "We as Christians should obey the law – but we should, more importantly, obey God's calling. Number one, we need to cling to the Lord like never before; and [secondly] we need to be discerning and willing to potentially pay the price if that means that we have to do something that is technically in violation of the law."
Meanwhile, Dacus is keeping an eye on the federal and local governments. "This is not a blank check for the government," he emphasizes. "The longer this drags out, the more difficult it's going to be for government to justify these kinds of extreme restrictions."
In his current column, Dr. Michael L. Brown addresses the issue of government restrictions in the name of public safety, asking if those actions constitute an infringement of constitutional rights – or if they present an opportunity to Christians to love their neighbors.