Churches in two well-populated states have been declared “essential” during the coronavirus pandemic but the far-left mayor of New York City is offering a draconian solution if they refuse to stay shut.
This week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott added "religious services conducted in churches, congregations, and houses of worship" to his list of essential services.
In the state of Florida, meanwhile, Gov. Ron DeSantis declared "attending religious services conducted in churches, synagogues and houses of worship" is an essential activity.
Both governors stressed that health measures mandated by the federal government, including social distancing and crowd size limits, are still in effect even in churches.
In hard-hit New York City, however, Mayor Bill de Blasio caused a stir this week when he not only condemned churches if they open their doors but threatened to close them down permanently if they refuse.
“They’ll inform [church leaders] that they need to stop the services and disperse,” de Blasio told reporters, referring to city investigators. “If that does not happen, they will take additional action up to the point of fines and closing the building permanently.”
Reacting to that threat, attorney Brad Dacus of the Pacific Justice Institute calls it “flat-out unconstitutional” to shutter the doors of a church.
“There is absolutely no authority for the mayor to engage in such a draconian, tyrannical practice,” Dacus warns, “and to make such a threat in times like these shows a complete insensitivity to the rights of citizens in his town.”
That is not to say New York City has no reason to worry about the highly-contagious virus. The city of 9 million is currently the “epicenter” of COVID-19 cases in the United States. The virus had claimed the lives of more than 1,500 New Yorkers by Thursday including doctors, nurses, and first responders who are treating tens of thousands of sick patients, The New York Times reported.
Theologian and talk show host Dr. Michael Brown tells OneNewsNow that churches probably should not be meeting during the virus crisis but adds that de Blasio is out of line.
“We should honor the authorities for love of neighbor and practical wisdom purposes,” Brown observes. “However, Mayor de Blasio has gone completely beyond the bounds of what's reasonable or constitutional.”
Brown predicts that Mayor de Blasio’s threat could anger constitution-loving pastors, who might then exercise some civil disobedience.
“I fear that it will provoke people to now feel the need to defy [de Blasio] because he has gone so over the bounds of what is right or constitutional or even rational,” Brown says.
Back in the state of Texas, prominent Dallas-based pastor Dr. Robert Jeffress tells OneNewsNow the congregation of First Baptist Church won’t be meeting under the church roof anytime soon due to safety concerns. That includes the upcoming Easter Sunday service.
“This coronavirus has reminded all Americans, Christians and non-Christians alike, that we are not in control of our destiny,” he concludes. “That we can make out plans but God has the final say.”