Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City) remains in the headlines for, among other things, telling churches and synagogues that he will permanently shut them down if they don't comply with government guidelines telling people not to gather as a way of combating the coronavirus.
Legal experts have told OneNewsNow that if bans such as these are temporary and involve many faiths, they are permissible. However, the "permanent" part is what attorney and U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) views as unconstitutional. Hawley said as much during a recent interview on the radio program "Washington Watch with Tony Perkins."
Columnist Dr. Michael L. Brown also takes issue with Mayor de Blasio's threat, telling the mayor "you seriously overstepped your bounds" when he made his statements.
"So, do what you have to do, within the bounds of law, to protect your citizens," Brown addresses the mayor. "But do not needlessly provoke religious leaders and believers who, as you noted in your press conference, have done a great job of complying. (And may I ask why you did not threaten mosques with closure? Is this because none of them violated the bans? Or was there another reason?)" Read more…
"Obviously, we want people to take precautions," the first-term Republican lawmaker stated. "My home church in Missouri is abiding by the health recommendations and requests and mandates of local health authorities, including not having Bible studies, just as a precaution.
"That is very admirable and the right thing to do," he continued. "But this idea that an elected official could threaten to use executive power to permanently close churches is insane and unconstitutional."
Tony Perkins, host of the radio program and president of Family Research Council (FRC), went on to say that de Blasio could have misstated his intentions, meaning he was only going to close places of worship during the duration of the coronavirus crisis.
"But he's been asked to clarify and he has not," he pointed out. "My opinion, as I've been working with government officials to try to get churches to comply with the orders: I actually [this] think this fans the flame of non-compliance because it shows that he goes beyond the crisis to something else – and that is hostility to religion."
FRC has published a webpage titled "COVID-19 & The Church." It features, among other things, links to ideas and resources for churches on how they can still minister without having on-site in-person services.
Perkins to pastors: 'Don't be foolish' about bans on gathering
Guidance to churches and religious institutions from First Liberty:
- Religious institutions should continue to serve their local communities
- Temporary, evenly applied restrictions [on gathering] may be permissible
- Extraordinary state action to limit the peaceful gathering of American citizens must be temporary
Ken Ham (Answers in Genesis) on de Blasio's statement:
- "It's a warning for the future when one person claims they have the power to close churches permanently. That's what we've seen in China & Cuba." (See tweet)
Ronnie Floyd (SBC Executive Committee president):
- "For any leader to threaten to close a church permanently is a matter of great concern. The First Amendment states that there should be no law that prohibits the free exercise of religion, and constitutional protections are unchanged by current circumstances." (Excerpt from Baptist Press article)
4/1/2020 - "More reaction" section added