A new petition on the White House’s website calls for President Trump to declare places of worship as “essential” during national emergencies. The petition comes as many municipalities have cracked down on the few churches who are trying to meet in person during the COVID-19 epidemic.
The petition claims that “The closure of churches and the suspension of Religious Liberty is a direct violation of our Constitutional Rights as Americans and a power the people of the United States are not willing to concede to the government on a federal, state, or local level.” Additionally, it says that the “DECLARATION AND CLASSIFICATION of these institutions as “ESSENTIAL” IS MERELY A FORMALITY as these rights have ALREADY BEEN DECLARED in the FIRST AMENDMENT of the BILL OF RIGHTS.”
According to previous report, only 3 percent of churches were planning on meeting in person on Easter Sunday. The churches who have violated stay at home orders or bans on large gatherings have faced consequences. Earlier this month, Kentucky State Police took down the license plate numbers of those who attended services at Maryville Baptist Church and placed flyers on their windshields instructing them to self-quarantine. On Fire Christian Church in Louisville won a temporary restraining order against Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer so they could hold drive-in services, though May Fischer denies that he banned drive-in services.
Joseph Spell, pastor of Life Tabernacle Church in Central, LA, was placed under house arrest last week and fitted with an ankle bracelet for defying the state’s bans on large gatherings. According to NBC News, Spell showed up at church this Sunday anyway and showed the congregation his ankle bracelet. He told the church, “I’m not hiding anymore” and that “It’s a dirty, rotten, crying shame when you have to hide in America.” Spell’s attorney, Joseph Long, claimed the judge’s order told Spell to cease “preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to his congregation.”
Americans across the country have scratched their heads at the list of businesses deemed “essential” and “nonessential.” “Essential” businesses have been allowed to stay open while “nonessential” businesses have been forced to stay closed. Some argue that this has put the government in the position of picking which businesses and organizations will thrive and which ones will be forced to face financial ruin.
To elicit a response from the White House, the petition must receive 100,000 signatures by May 26th, 2020. It had garnered over 4,500 signatures as of the morning of April 28th.