Many Churches Getting Nervous About “Temporary” Bans on Services

Concerns about the coronavirus are not stopping religious liberty law firms from doing their work.

“We’re getting a lot of calls, especially from churches, saying my city, my county, my state, whatever it is, has some sort of lock-down or ban,” says attorney Jeremy Dys of Texas-based First Liberty Institute. “It’s made it difficult on everybody.”

Dys can sympathize.

“In Dallas County, where I live, the county has said that we have to shelter in place,” Dys explains. “We can go outside to play in our yard, walk down the street, go for a jog, but we can’t go to church, and we’re supposed to stay home unless we’re going to go out and get medicine or food.”

As a result of these types of situations, First Liberty has published a free resource called Guidance for Churches and Religious Institutions. There’s also a webpage that includes a brief history of the impact of pandemics on religious freedom, along with a podcast titled First Response.

“We want to encourage the church to continue to serve the community wherever they are able to serve their community,” Dys stresses. “That is an important element where the state and church have to get along in situations like this, and this is a key opportunity for the church to serve their community.”

Are Temporary Church Bans Constitutional?

In terms of the temporary bans on gathering in large numbers, which impact church services, Dys says temporary bans may be constitutional for a temporary period of time.

“By and large, I think it’s important for us to respect the decision of our state officials right now in trying to curb this pandemic,” adds Dys. “A permanent ban on religious gatherings will never fly under the Constitution, and we’ll be eager to challenge that if that lasts past the temporary nature, but for now, it’s important that the church rely upon the health apparatus and respect that the state has in fighting this pandemic, even while the state also has to recognize that the church is its own entity and provides a wonderful service to the society around us.”

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