Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Multi-Faith Group Issues Statement Questioning Religious Exemptions From COVID Orders

On Monday, some 27 religious organizations representing various Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions issued a statement (full text) expressing concern that states are going too far in adopting legislation exempting houses of worship from COVID-19 health orders and other emergency orders.  The statement reads in part:

We appreciate the desire to protect our right to worship and gather for religious activities. Too often, however, these bills are overly broad and could result in policies that threaten public health and safety.

Religious freedom is a fundamental American value, and the freedom to worship in accordance with one’s spiritual practices and traditions is a right of the highest order. At the same time, religious freedom does not demand tying the hands of public officials who are trying to safeguard public health as they respond to unforeseen events like pandemics, natural disasters and other emergencies. Indeed, all of our denominations have found creative ways to provide opportunities for worship during the pandemic, recognizing the spiritual sustenance and sense of community that religious practices provide....

Times of public crisis demand that all community leaders—religious, secular, and governmental—work together to find solutions. By giving religious gatherings a pre-emptive exemption from future emergency orders, we fear that these bills will unintentionally paint religious communities as part of the problem, not the solution, and thereby undercut our ability to partner with community leaders to defeat the crisis.

[Thanks to Don Byrd at BJC for the lead.]