This week, President Donald Trump has pledged that he will “override” state orders barring in-person religious services unless governors do so. As I have previously noted, the President is claiming authority that is expressly denied to him in our system of federalism. While I have warned such deference given to the states wanes with time, any order to reopen churches in a given state will be based on the inherent authority of the courts, not the President. This issue could be coming to a head with the split decision of a panel in the Ninth Circuit late Friday to uphold the order Gov. Gavin Newsom barring large in-person religious services. Early on in the pandemic, I wrote about how governors can shutdown churches under the Constitution. The Administration can, and has promised, joined legal challenges to such state orders but it is not claiming the inherent authority of presidents to “override” state decisions. The Justice Department has warned Newsom that his order is contravening constitutional rights.
We have been discussing most recent case against televangelist Jim Bakker. Bakker was mentioned in my recent column on why some religious claims raised in the pandemic are dubious. Now, Bakker is making sweeping claims that he has a religious right to sell a fraudulent cure for the coronavirus. His new lawyer, former Gov. Jay Nixon, is arguing that the free exercise clause gives Bakker the right to sell (for profit) a cure that could discourage the stricken from getting medical treatment or taking real precautions.
We previously discussed the defiance of Louisiana Pastor Tony Spell who refused to stop holding large services as the state struggled to control the coronavirus. Now, Spell has announced that while he wants nothing to do with orders designed to control the virus, he would appreciate the faithful sending him and other churches their pandemic stimulus checks. We also previously discussed televangelists telling the faithful that the pandemic and economic collapse is not excuse to stop sending tithes to the churches.
We have been discussing ministers who have defied state orders to avoid large services, even refusing to yield after criminal charges. Now one of those ministers, Bishop Gerald O. Glenn, has died of coronavirus.
He was widely qouted for saying “I Am Essential . . . I Talk to God!”: Continue reading “Virginia Pastor Who Defied Lock Down Order Has Died From Coronavirus”
Below is my column in The Hill newspaper. This weekend the Kansas Supreme Court ruled with the Governor in upholding her order to close church services over 10 persons. That is particularly notable since, as mentioned in the column, Kansas is a state with enhanced protections for the free exercise of religion.
Here is the column:Continue reading “Why The Government Can Shut Down Church Gatherings During Pandemics”
Call if Luke 4:8 abridged. Jesus said “Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God.” We can now add getting insurance behind you. We have discussed the defiance of the pandemic order against groups over 10 people and how Rodney Howard-Browne, the head pastor at the River at Tampa Bay Church, has refused to comply. His holding of large services led to his arrest recently, but Howard-Browne insisted that he would continue to fight against “government tyranny.” He will now have to do so without insurance and that could prove more a far greater challenge than state sanctions.Continue reading “Get Thee [Insurance] For It Is Written: Florida Pastor Loses Insurance In Defiance Of Pandemic Order”
We have been discussing churches holding mass services in defiance of orders for people to stay at home and avoid groups of larger than 10 people. Some of the churches insist that faith alone can protect against the virus. Now, the Awaken Church in Jonesboro, Arkansas has not only announced that it would remain open for services but assured the faithful that “Jesus died with COVID-19 so you didn’t have to bear it.”Continue reading ““Jesus Died With COVID-19”: Arkansas Church Refuses To Close During Pandemic”
We recently discussed defiant ministers who have refused to end large-scale services like Pastor Tony Spell in Louisiana. Now Florida police have criminally charged Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne of The River at Tampa Bay Church for defying pandemic orders with a mass service.
Fox 29 reports that law enforcement tried to dissuade Howard-Browne but the minister refused to yield and exposed his congregation and their neighbors to spreading the virus. He is charged with “unlawful assembly” and “violation of public health emergency order.”Continue reading “Laying Hands On Religious Super-Spreaders: Florida Police Arrest Megachurch Pastor”
Where the world is united in fighting the menace of the coronavirus, Gazan Imam Jamil Al-Mutawa used his sermon in Gaza to praise the virus as sent by Allah to kill Westerners and Jews while sparing Palestinians. If the translation is accurate on MEMRI from March 20, 2020, the Imam is enthralled by the virus declares “[Allah] has sent just one soldier, [the coronavirus].” In the meantime, Ralph Drollinger, a Christian leader with ties to President Trump, argues in two blog posts that the virus is the wrath of God over our sins. Another preacher is claiming to heal all carriers attending his services because the virus is merely the manifestation of the devil. He added “You’re not spreading God’s word, you’re spreading this virus.”Continue reading “Religious Leaders Move To Claim Coronavirus As Wrath Of God [Updated]”
We have seen the worst of religious opportunists in this crisis. There are also stories of amazing selflessness from religious groups and individuals. One such person is Rev. Giuseppe Berardelli, 72. Many of you may already have heard of this man but his story is as inspiring as it is tragic. According to Vatican News, Berardelli greeted everyone with the phrase: “Pace e bene” (“Peace and All Good”)Continue reading ““Peace and All Good”: Italian Priest Dies After Giving His Ventilator To Young Patient”
Stephen Beach of St. Budeaux Parish Church in Plymouth just learned why trial lawyers never ask a question without knowing the answer. Beach was holding an online sermon during the COVID-19 outbreak and asked “Lord God, what are you saying to us?” He promptly caught fire. Fortunately, as shown in the video below, it was just his clothing and the good vicar is fine. He needs a new sweater and his parishioners need a stiff drink. First Prince Charles gets the coronavirus and now good reverends are catching fire.Continue reading “Not Reassuring: Vicar Catches Fire After Asking “Lord God, What Are You Saying To Us?””
The Vatican has announced that it has granted blanket forgiveness for sins by anyone struck with the coronavirus as well as healthcare workers and those who pray for healthcare workers. Relatives of the sick are also forgiven. I must admit that, as a lawyer raised Catholic, I am surprised by the use of general absolution on this scale. I am also struck by the specificity, including that those who want to take advantage of the option for those who pray must also pray, doing so “for at least half an hour.”Continue reading “Catholic Church Approves Blanket Forgiveness For Sins During Outbreak”
We have previously discussed televangelist Kenneth Copeland and his bizarre explanations for why he needed to fly in luxury planes and other controversies. Now Copeland appears genuinely concerned about the loss of jobs during the coronavirus outbreak: because people are choosing to use their money to feed their families rather than donate to the church. Accordingly, Copeland took to the air to declare “Whatever you do right now, don’t you stop tithing.”Continue reading ““Whatever You Do Right Now, Don’t You Stop Tithing”: Televangelists Tell Jobless Faithful That They Must Continue To Give Money”
We recently discussed videotaped of Iranians licking the doors and objects of Islamic shrines in the belief that such traditions are protected by God from Coronavirus. Now, Greek Orthodox churches in Australia have announced that they will allow congregations of hundreds of people to sip wine from the same spoon during mass because “the holy cup cannot carry disease.”Continue reading ““The Holy Cup Cannot Carry Disease”: Greek Orthodox Churches Announce That Shared Drinking Of Wine Will Continue Despite Corona”
The head of Shincheonji Church of Jesus, Lee Man-hee this week held a press conference to apologize for the spread of the coronavirus that has been traced to his controversial sect. It was a remarkable moment for a man who claimed to be second coming of Jesus Christ. In Iran, where the virus is exploding, the Muslim leaders are neither apologetic nor deterred in refusing to curtail religious demonstrations, including the licking of religious sites and icons by Muslims. Muslims interviewed insist that their faith protected them, which further expands the growing body of God-fearing, virus-inviting patients for health experts.Continue reading “God-Fearing and Virus-Inviting: Religious Figures In Iran and South Korea Under Fire For Spread of The Coronavirus”