Is it towards non secular freedom to shut church buildings for corona virus?

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While the world is facing the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, states and communities are working to contain the virus as best as possible by discouraging gatherings of people (and doing everything else to stop them).

President Trump's Coronavirus Task Force guidelines recommended that no more than ten people should meet in the next eight weeks.

The government may act even more drastically in the coming days. With most churches not currently gathering on Sundays, some are asking whether these types of health mandates violate religious freedom.

The short answer is no

Before I explain why, I would like to point out that the question is reasonable. Finally, we claim that no government is Lord of the Church – our only head is Jesus Christ. And there would be many circumstances under which a government could illegally use powers to prevent churches from gathering. In my view, nothing that is currently happening in connection with this crisis is a violation of religious freedom or the separation of the Church from the state.

Our commitment to religious freedom is based on what Jesus taught us – that the spheres of the church and the state are different and that one should not have authority over the other. For example, the state has the "power of the sword" to punish criminals and maintain civil order (Rom 13: 1-7), while the church does not (1 Cor 5: 9-12). The Church has the authority to preach the gospel and to define the boundaries of community within that gospel, not the state.

Legitimate God-given Authority for Protection in Crisis

The current situation we are facing is not that the state is crossing its borders, but rather trying to carry out its legitimate God-given authority. Nowhere have we seen churches targeted because of their faith or mission.

It is a clear public goal: to stop the transmission of a dangerous virus by gatherings. This applies to the local panel juggling association as well as to churches. Since the state has to respect the conscience and souls of the people, conscience and souls over which it has no definitive authority, any act involving religious entities should, according to the 1993 Law on the Restoration of Religious Freedom, take action Have "imperative state interest". and must pursue the "least restrictive means" to achieve this.

In my opinion, both tests were met in every case that I saw.

This is an area – the protection of public health – in which the state not only has legal authority, but an authority granted by God himself. For example, the state could not refuse to pursue a murder because the shootout took place during a service. And the Church could not claim that religious freedom was violated because the state would not allow them to protect the shooter from accountability.

So far legitimate public interest

Someone could not claim religious freedom for the embezzlement just because the embezzlement takes place during the church offertory. The same principle applies here. Governments are trying to limit gatherings of people. This is a legitimate public interest and the government tries to do so in the least intrusive way possible.

So far. Everything here relates to measures taken so far.

The situation will almost inevitably lead to stronger and less voluntary government action. Could they interfere with religious freedom? That is certainly possible, but not necessarily. To prevent this, we need more worldly leaders who think carefully about why religion matters and more religious leaders who think about the complexity of public health.

Unity avoids paranoia and promotes peace

If we stay in the same “team” to overcome this crisis, we can avoid overreaching on the one hand or paranoia on the other. And we will need that.

Along with "Every command should include the maximum recognition of the need for clergy and other religious workers to perform the necessary service," healthcare workers are in the same category. Such a service is necessary.

A nursing home patient in danger needs a doctor to take care of her physically, but she should also be allowed to have a pastor pray for her, her priest perform the final rites, or whatever the equivalent in her religion would be. We can make such exceptions without endangering life, as we have done anywhere else in human history from the Black Plague to the 1918 influenza crisis.

A pause in church meetings is compassionate

Most churches that I know are completely in sync with the rest of society in this regard. They voluntarily limit their meetings until the crisis is over because they care for their members and for non-members in their communities. Churches and governments work together in most places, and that's a good thing.

After this crisis is over, we will have learned a lot about the fragility of life and our need for one another. The Church will be called to bear the burden of our neighbors like never before. There will be no shortage of debates on all types of religious freedom issues as it was before.

In the meantime, public health concerns are not a violation of religious freedom.

Let us not only obey the laws of our states and cities, but we will try even more than required to assume our responsibility. Let us wash our hands, stay as far apart as necessary, pray for our medical staff and leaders, and pray like never before.

In this way we transmit what is due to both God and Caesar. And that's a good place to start.

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