Priest Coughing in Front of Open Church Door
Attending church increases the risk of contracting and spreading coronavirus. Despite this, state governments are refusing to close churches down.

As coronavirus has many of us self-isolating, some state governors are passing laws to ensure that everyone else stays home too. 

And a Michigan ban of all gatherings of over 50 people would have stood as a shining example of decisive action to tackle the spread of COVID-19… were the state's religious buildings not lumped in with essential locations like hospitals and grocery stores as exceptions to the rule.  

 That’s right. Michigan’s ban on gatherings of 50+ people carves out exemptions for churchgoers, this despite the fact that churches, where dozens or even hundreds of congregants sit elbow-to-elbow for an hour or more, are a breeding ground for the spread of coronavirus.

Churches Free to Gather Despite Risk

With governors from hard-hit states like Washington, New York and California erring on the side of science and enforcing necessary social-distancing steps to reign in the pandemic, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer neutered her own executive order, announcing churches, mosques and synagogues would pay no penalties for defying that same ban.

The toothless law now puts elderly churchgoers and the general public at increased risk.  

GOP Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield took to Facebook to defend the move, insisting: “people have a God-given right to assemble and worship, and that right is secured by both the United States and Michigan Constitution.”

That they have the right to worship is indisputable. But do they have the right to assemble, when society’s well being depends on all of us doing our part and socially isolating?

Many have been quick to mock young Spring Breakers splashing it up without a care in the world. Yet every passing Sunday in this country brings the risk of unnecessary coronavirus spread in church pews nationwide, fueled in large part by pastors defying common sense and science and claiming that they are some kind of necessary spiritual first responders.

Bused In

The Life Tabernacle Church in Louisiana, for example, hosted a jaw-dropping 1,825 worshippers at their Sunday morning service. Many followers were picked up and driven in on 26 different buses to hear Pastor Tony Spell insist that anybody in the congregation suffering from COVID-19 would be cured by him “laying hands on them and praying for them and depending on God to heal their body.” Parishioners could also be seen touching each other and huddling together, most without even wearing masks or gloves.

Governor Edwards, meanwhile, could only urge Louisiana faith leaders to "not necessarily engage in mass gatherings where this coronavirus can spread.”

Church Goes Digital

Of course, there are some religious leaders doing their part to flatten the curve.

To their credit, many churches across the US have gotten creative in order to comply with state and federal mandates to reduce the size of gatherings, often wading into unchartered technical waters by either live-streaming or podcasting their services, or even meeting in smaller Sunday morning groups.

“We’re being very intentional in using language that ‘Church is not cancelled, it’s gone digital," explains Pastor Kevin Goss of La Grande Nazarene in Oregon, whose church recently decided to stream upcoming sermons to its 130-or-so congregants on YouTube.

The Faith Center, meanwhile, has decided to rejig its 500-person Sunday service by “promoting watch parties where people could be invited over” to view pre-recorded services and worship together at one another’s homes, albeit in smaller groups. “We’re hoping that will help translate to a more personal (level),” said Pastor Cameron Hefner.

Whatever the solution, it's clear that the status quo of the large Sunday mass makes zero sense in our current reality. It's adapt-or-die. Literally.

COVID-19 is, after all, a non-denominational virus. It doesn't care who your God is, or what special coronavirus-blocking powers your faith leader believes they have. And so this goes far beyond protecting religious freedom. This is about protecting human life.

What do you think? Should churches remain open and be exempt from mandatory closure laws? Is the risk to society at large worth the spiritual reward?

38 comments

  1. Brien's Avatar Brien

    As I have always said, you are free to believe whatever you wish, as long as your behavior does no harm. In this instance, this behavior can do great harm especially when you consider all of the safer ways to congregate and worship, drive in, outdoor, electronic, etc.. I must conclude that the behavior of the church administration that still keeps it's congregation in great danger is criminal and should be treated as such.

  1. Herbert Moore's Avatar Herbert Moore

    what is there to say - I suspect this may become a self-correcting phenomena.

    1. Reverend Hannah Grace's Avatar Reverend Hannah Grace

      Herbert Moore - it wouldn't be so bad if they were only infecting themselves but they could carry the virus back to their communities and to the vulnerable population. The law should include everyone. God is at home, as well as in a building.

    2. Br'er George's Avatar Br'er George

      Stewpud izazz stewpud duzz!

  1. Rev. Sandy's Avatar Rev. Sandy

    God helps those who help themselves. He doesn't help stupid people who do nothing but pray.

  1. Reverend Cory's Avatar Reverend Cory

    Please stay home, self quarentine. As someone in the high risk category, over 60 and fighting cancer, you just might help save my life!

  1. Tom Thackrey's Avatar Tom Thackrey

    I understand blind faith. I don't understand stupid. Science and religion are not mutually exclusive. I suspect the motivation for this blatant disregard of public safety is GREED.

    1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

      Totally agree! It’s greed, deception, and deep indoctrination. Mosques are equally just as full. Science, logic, and reason work in mysterious ways of reducing the worlds weaker intelligent species.

      🦁❤️

      1. Lori Mongillo's Avatar Lori Mongillo

        You're right Lionheart. Those that gather together in the midst of a pandemic are of lesser intelligence. I do believe the atheists, agnostics and science pagans will inherit the earth.

        1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

          Thank you Lori, perhaps it’s gods way of cleansing the earth of those who are illogical and delusional. OMG....did I say god? 🤪

          🦁❤️

      2. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

        No sorry Lionhart wrong again. its called the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution meaning that no state or locality, not even the federal government; can make a law that stops the free practice of religion.

        Seems you just got slapped with reality hey again and your anti religious bias was destroyed. I mean how exactly are you going to try and refute this "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech" I know you will try, but you will fail every time

        1. arawngraalrd's Avatar arawngraalrd

          First word of the First Amendment is Congress, not Government. Incorporation is a corrupt interpretation of the 14th Amendment, which restricts the states as Congress is restricted. t's generally a poor idea, for Government to interfere in Religion, but I don't see this as any exception.

          1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

            No the first words are Congress SHALL NOT. The rest is icing on the cake

        2. Brien's Avatar Brien

          An amendment is not to be used as an excuse for endangering the public at large. No one has said anything about the right to practice any religion, only the need to modify the behaviour of congregating due to the existing danger to the public at large. You can get all pissed off and righteous all you want, but if my mother elderly mother is placed in danger because of your stupidity or any one else that believes public safety does not apply to them, you WILL lose this battle. Their are a hell of alot more that believe as I do than there are of you. There are simple ways to have it both ways, but if people like you insist on being an ass about it I see no reason to accommodate your self centered belief.

        3. John Condron's Avatar John Condron

          To quote Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson in his dissenting opinion in Terminiello v. Chicago (1949), "The Constitution is not a suicide pact." What he meant by this is that constitutional restrictions on governmental power must be balanced against the need for survival of the state and its people. Abraham Lincoln said something similar, though he didn't use the words "suicide pact."

          1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

            Ok and if you want to try this then here is your destruction

            Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah (1993) The Court considered whether ordinances passed by the city of Hialeah, Florida, banning animal sacrifice violated the Free Exercise Clause. The texts of these laws and the way they operated showed that they were not neutral and generally applicable, but instead targeted the Santeria religion, in which animal sacrifice is an important ritual. In a unanimous decision, the Court held that because the ordinances were designed to persecute or oppress a religion or its practices, they violated the Free Exercise Clause. (Citation: 508 US 520)

            Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School District (1993) Kiryas Joel School District v. Grumet (1994) Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board v. Pinette (1995) Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe (2000) Mitchell v. Helms (2000) Good News Club v. Milford Central School (2001) Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (2002) Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow (2004) Locke v. Davey (2004) Van Orden v. Perry (2005) McCreary County v. American Civil Liberties Union of Ky. (2005) Cutter v. Wilkinson (2005) Gonzales v. O Centro Espírita Beneficente União do Vegetal (2006) Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation (2007) Christian Legal Society v. Martinez (2010)

            what constitutes an "establishment of religion" is often governed under the three-part test set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court in Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971). Under the "Lemon" test, government can assist religion only if (1) the primary purpose of the assistance is secular, (2) the assistance must neither promote nor inhibit religion, and (3) there is no excessive entanglement between church and state. And so far ALL the courts have said that the closing of churches does not fit into this test. Sorry about your luck. And if you dont believe this then contact the Mayor of NYC or the Gov of NY and ask them about the recent anal reaming they got from the Supreme court when they tried this

  1. Pastor Doug MacPherson's Avatar Pastor Doug MacPherson

    Many Church's elected to cancel service due to spreading the virus

  1. Dr Asha Sharma's Avatar Dr Asha Sharma

    If we have a global pandemic that will cause harm to people than we should pay attention. We all say that God gives us messages, well the almighty is sending a very strong message and we are not listening. Have we become so busy with the worldly things that we have forgotten the basics of our purpose in life God, Family, community, Society. During this time we should reflect of our purpose. May all stay healthy and blessed

  1. Robert T Wilson's Avatar Robert T Wilson

    All should be social distancing. Digital services and phone service to keep communication should be used. Sure it will take more time for the reglious leader but all need to sacrifice a little. If they are administering to the poor and homeless then it may need to switch to full support. Remember people infected are contagious and can easily infect others so they infect the entire human race not just a particular group. Peace and distance

  1. Brother David's Avatar Brother David

    We have the technology to take the word to the congregation. We have ears to hear. (Even the most stuborn) God is not going to send bolts of lightening because you are keeping your family and others safe. Remember he is a loving God and he cares for all. Amen An interview with God..." old man" God does it bother you that some of the people are not going to church? God says "äre you kidding me, who's not going to church, temple, field and flowers"????? I'll send a bolt of Just kidding... Yes thats right meterial, didn't I give you a brain, get out of here and start making those masks, and noticed a group in the distance, Stop shleping off go serve each other.. And don't forget have a little mustard, the seed moves mountains and the paste will open you up. But for my sake. ....We are all children of the same universe. AMEN Brother David John

  1. Rod Gesner's Avatar Rod Gesner

    I feel for all the children and women forced to join in this insanity.. May they survive and learn from other survivors that science n medicine want you to live.. Most early religious laws were to prevent deaths n diseases from spreading.. Science has figured reasons and cures that any compassionate god would want you to follow.. But the elders that do not have the sense god gave them to stay home keep themselves and others safe??
    May your god forgive your arrogance AND KEEP YOU BY HIS SIDE

    I DO NOT.. NOR DO I WANT YOU KILLING OTHERS !! SO GO AHEAD CATCH THE VIRUS TRAIN DIE QUICK.. AND FIND OUT THAT YOU WILL LAND WHERE YOU DESERVE TO.

    1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

      Nobody is forcing them to do anything. They are doing what the 1st Amendment of the Constitution allows them to do and the states cant stop it if they wanted to

      1. Ilmenheru Terikson's Avatar Ilmenheru Terikson

        You are very wrong. a national health emergency can very much shut down churches and should. The fact some states are allowing their churches to be exempt is simply a sign of ignorant fools being in charge of those states.

        One could for example lockdown the building after people have gathered inside and then ship the people tp a quarantine facility to be tested then shipped home and placed on house arrest for acting in a manner that threatens public health.

      2. John D. Partin's Avatar John D. Partin

        They CAN stop it through the unwritten clause in the 1st Amendment and every law that you can do what you want to do, so long as it doesn't affect or endanger public health, life, and safety. If it does, then you have to stop doing what you are doing or be made to stop because your rights aren't the only rights and the rest of us have rights, too!! The idea that the Constitution is made of stone or steel and can't bend to human needs and emergencies, such as this pandemic, is ridiculous and not what the founders wanted at all and is a Pharisaical view of law as "immutable" and "superior to people and their needs", but Jesus contradicted that old legalism and said "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath". The 1st Amendment and every other law is our servant, not we its servant, and they were made by and for us, not we for them, and so must bend to fit our needs in this pandemic and other situations.

        1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

          NO they cant John. Theere is NO unwritten clause or rule in the 1st Amendment and anyone who tells you there is is nuttier then Mr.Peanuts outhouse. The 1st Amendment says NO and it means NO!

          1. John D. Partin's Avatar John D. Partin

            Not according to you and other people who don't have any common sense at all, but everyone with common sense is expected to use it, sometimes, and not go to church if they will be infected or infect other people during a pandemic and have our government stop other people from going to church when they will cause the further spread of this virus, no matter what the 1st Amendment says. Of course, you don't agree with that or understand it because, as was already said, you don't have good common sense, but it's obvious to everyone else!! People come first, not laws, no matter what you "think"!!

          2. John D. Partin's Avatar John D. Partin

            Not according to you and other people who don't have any common sense at all, but everyone with common sense is expected to use it, sometimes, and not go to church if they will be infected or infect other people during a pandemic and have our government stop other people from going to church when they will cause the further spread of this virus, no matter what the 1st Amendment says. Of course, you don't agree with that or understand it because, as was already said, you don't have good common sense, but it's obvious to everyone else!! People come first, not laws, no matter what you "think"!!

            1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

              the only one who does not have common sense John is you. You CANT start making up stuff about the Constitution to fit your agenda. You lost get over it

              1. John D. Partin's Avatar John D. Partin

                Daniel Gray, people's not intentionally going into dangerous conditions unnecessarily isn't making things up, but is just self-preservation and common sense, which you would already know if you had any common sense! You don't even believe in an absolute right of people to go into any churches whatsoever, no matter what is going on in them, because (if you aren't completely CRAZY!!) you wouldn't be in favor of people's going into churches that are on fire or being destroyed by hurricanes or tornadoes or earthquakes or other man-made and natural disasters, so that they wouldn't be burned up or have buildings cave in on them or be swept away or otherwise injured or killed, and would try to keep any people that you care about (if any!!) out of such churches and want the police and government to keep people out of those churches! So. why don't you see the necessity of keeping people out of churches where covid-19 is infecting and killing people, too, the same as keeping them out of burning or flooded or collapsing churches, and of the government's keeping people out of them?!! The "absolute right of people to go into any churches, no matter what is happening in them" doesn't exist and that isn't what the 1st Amendment says or means, as you should already know from your own quoting if it so often and these examples prove!! Read the 1st Amendment again for yourself and see if "people can go into churches even if it will make them sick or otherwise kill them" is anywhere in there!! IT'S NOT THERE!! Your position is totally illogical, inconsistent, insane, and ridiculous!!! You have lost and so get over it!!!

                1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

                  NO YOU have lost it. Nothing you have said is legal or can be proved legal and thats why every court has ruled against the closing of church's so deal with reality john and stop your huffing and puffing

      3. John Condron's Avatar John Condron

        Actually, Daniel, the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution says no such thing. The pertinent section of that amendment says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

        It does not say the government cannot limit the free exercise of religion; only that it cannot "prohibit" that free exercise.

        This is getting really old. You either choose to pretend not to understand the 1st amendment, or you really don't.

        As I pointed out in a related discussion here in this blog, arguing with you is like playing Chess with a pigeon. Pointless.

  1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

    Um if anyone is so darn ignorant, look at the 1st amendment in the US Constitution. It clearly says that government CANNOT interfere with religions nor can they make a law that interferes with a religion. So they had NO CHOICE BUT to include churches in with the essential locations as if they tried anything else, they would be hit with a 1st Amendment violation lawsuit that they could not win so fast that it would make their heads spin. And this is for ALL religions from Christians to Atheists. and Any recognized religion in between.

    So why bother to complain, its in the Constitution and they must by constitutional law, follow it or face the wrath of the US Government. Science in this case has nothing to do with it and couldnt stop it if they wanted to as the law says different.

    1. John Condron's Avatar John Condron

      What is with you, Daniel? Stop paraphrasing the Constitution to fit your agenda. The framers were very careful in their use of words; if not commas (2nd amendment reference).

      The 1st Amendment does not say that the government cannot INTERFERE with religions, as you claim. It says that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." That is not even close to the same thing. It does not prohibit Congress or any level of government from restricting the free exercise of religion -- only of prohibiting it.

      Nobody is trying to prohibit the free exercise of religion. Most states have -- stupidly, in my opinion -- allowed churches to remain open, with common-sense rules about masks, social distancing, etc. Many responsible churches, by the way, have made their own decisions to remain closed, because they aren't stupid enough to endanger their members. That is what responsible leaders do, Daniel; even if the law allows them to behave otherwise.

      As I said above, "The Constitution is not a suicide pact."

      1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

        So we are supposed to just listen to people when they violate the Constitution just because you like it? Maybe you should speak to the SCOTUS as they backed me up 1000% when they reamed out both Coumo and the mayor of NYC for closing church's as they said it was a violation of the 1st Amendment. So I suppose we are all to think you are correct even though the SCOTUS has repeatedly stated that you are clearly wrong?

  1. Vern Dee Wall's Avatar Vern Dee Wall

    The article was clearly written by an atheist to provoke comments. We call this "trolling".

    1. rev.heidianne's Avatar rev.heidianne

      give me a break!!

    2. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

      Try not to find it too difficult to discuss Monastery topics intelligently. Religious indoctrination can be a real bear at times don’t you think?

      🦁❤️

  1. Richard Lee Cornell's Avatar Richard Lee Cornell

    The Catholic Church might be the only one standing after this virus leaves for the summer. In 540 AD Rome got hit with a virus it killed 98% of the residents. Europe was plunge into darkness. Again in 1342 Europe had the Black Death Plague. History repeated itself when population rose high enough, plagues would wipe out a percentage of the population. For plagues this one is mild (3-5% deaths) it seems to be just your everyday flu virus that has a twist. If this is one of God's plagues then no one is safe. It would be funny that only preachers die from it.

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