In recent news, we have seen the allegations that the Shelter-in-place orders are infringing on the rights of peoples to assemble and practice their specific religion. Protestors are relying on the First Amended and the right to practice religion. The United States District Court in North Carolina recently entered an order that would allow religious gathering stating that there would be irreparable harm if parishioners were not granted the opportunity to freely worship in their place of worship. The argument was that the restriction on the number of parishioners for a religious gathering violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. Another argument is that the State is getting involved with church matters which blurs the separation of church and state. Likewise, in Mississippi, the Department of Justice sides with the fundamental right to the free exercise of religion, including the ability of believers to gather to a dispute to the current state of the pandemic. Here in Illinois, an evangelical church joins the arguments that Governor Pritzker’s mandates violate the right to the free exercise of religion. With churches opening in certain states, we have seen reports on news outlets that members of these congregations have been exposed to COVID-19.
On the other side of the argument, other churches, in order to comply with the shelter-in-place orders, are turning to virtual worship services through Facebook, YouTube Live, and other social media outlets until they feel that it is safe for all members to return to places of worship. Some Pastors and worship leaders have opted to follow the shelter-in-place orders and have encouraged congregants to do the same. These religious leaders are concerned that opening the doors for worship gatherings too soon will put the health and safety of the parishioners in jeopardy.
It is a tough job to manage expectations of parishioners while at the same time comply with the law. Here is where faith has been challenged by some believers. Here is where the obligations to follow religious traditions and scriptural reference for obedience with the government is challenged. Is it a question of faith? Faith is the complete trust and confidence in something or someone, even when you cannot see it. Some parishioners and believers feel that a true test of their faith was to prove that they will be protected if they chose to worship with other believers. Others believe that it is a test of their faith to remain in place until the great divine provides them with the answer on whether or not they should reassemble. Even if the doors of the worship centers were opened, the decision to enter would be up to the members. Some of us will choose to remain at home. While others will be front and center when the places of worship open.
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We are aware that everyone has been affected by the recent response to COVID-19 but we hope that you find some comfort in knowing that we are still operational and here to assist you.
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