At a press conference on May 6th, Governor Pritzker of Illinois confirmed that church gatherings of more than 50 people would be halted indefinitely until a vaccine or effective treatment for COVID-19 is developed.
BREAKING: Governor Pritzker confirms churches will not be allowed to have services with more than 50 people until there is a vaccine, highly effective treatment, or elimination of any new cases over a sustained period.
— Cisco Cotto (@CiscoCotto) May 6, 2020
The Governor’s plan involves five phases. By phase three, churches will be allowed to host services with no more than 10 congregants. By phase four, they can begin hosting groups of 50 people to worship. It is not until phase five that churches are allowed to begin transitioning back to normal services. The start of phase five is contingent on a vaccine or effective treatment being developed.
“Until we have a vaccine or an effective treatment or enough widespread immunity that new cases fail to materialize, the option of returning to normalcy doesn’t exist,” Governor Pritzker announced.
The problem with this is that it’s no longer a temporary measure—the governor is expanding the restriction on religious practice indefinitely. Vaccines can take a long time to produce. According to Live Science, “Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently said that a COVID-19 [vaccine] could take 12 to 18 months to develop.”
Furthermore, new vaccines tend to have to wait years for approval. It’s possible this process could be expedited to account for the ongoing pandemic; however, that likely won’t shorten the waiting time to anything less than two years.
Does the government have the power to restrict religious practice for upwards of two years? Many state governors have been using emergency mandates to temporarily stop every form of social institutions —businesses, churches etc.— from operating. But when this temporary provision turns into a long-term, indefinite mandate, there’s a serious question about its constitutionality.
The First Amendment establishes a clear freedom to exercise one’s own religion. It was so important that it was one of the very first things included in the U.S. Constitution. Many of the first Americans sought a new life in the United States because of the religious persecution in their home countries. Freedom of religion is still integral to the United States of America and its citizens.
It is understandable that during a short-term, emergency situation, services might have to be cancelled or moved online, but to demand that churches not hold services with all of their congregants for years at a time is crossing the line. Being able to go to your church to worship with your fellow congregants is vital to religiously practicing Americans. More so now than ever, religious Americans need to have the opportunity to practice their religious beliefs because in times like the one we are living in right now, prayer is comforting to many who are scared and struggling.
If governments have an all-encompassing power to shutdown churches for years without approval from the state legislatures, then what power don’t they have? What is there to stop them from imposing more restrictions on churches and everyday life?
How long until churches are forbidden from preaching sermons rooted in biblical texts because they are deemed ‘controversial’?
A state governor should not have this type of power. Religious Americans are being targeted by their governments under the guise of fighting the coronavirus.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.