In Wake County, North Carolina, the response was almost immediate. In a matter of hours, local officials went from banning drive-through communion and offerings to completely reversing course. What changed? Attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom had sent a letter, explaining how “illogical” it is to say church giving is unsafe but exchanging money in a grocery or other business isn’t. “We support the efforts of public officials to prioritize health and safety,” ADF’s Ryan Tucker pointed out, “but it is… unconstitutional to apply government orders in a way that singles out churches for harsher treatment. We are asking the county to repeal its ban and avoid the need for any litigation over the matter.”
The county listened, responding that same day with an updated order. Praising the quick action of Wake officials, ADF said that locals looked forward to being able to host drive-in services “with the freedom to safely serve communion and receive donations this Sunday without fear of government punishment.”
Elsewhere in New York, another injustice toward churches was also fixed in record speed. Leaders in Chemung County had pulled a similar stunt, arguing that local congregations were putting the community at risk with their parking lot services. But they had a change of heart after First Liberty Institute got involved, reminding them what the law actually said about the matter. The next day, the targeting stopped.
Down in Mississippi, it took a little more prodding to get hostile officials in line. But, thanks to U.S. District Judge Michael Mills, Holly Springs — which had even shut down midweek Bible studies — was ordered to stop with the local tyranny. As far as Mills was concerned, they weren’t just violating the church’s religious freedom, but its free speech, its freedom to assemble, its rights of due process, and the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
For First Pentecostal Church, it had been an Easter like no other. Not only did the police interrupt the service, but it stopped to give Pastor Waldrop a citation. “These were outrageous violations of these parishioners’ rights,” Thomas More Society argued. “On both occasions, Holly Springs law enforcement personnel ignored the fact that all church members present were practicing social distancing and complying with all applicable health requirements.” From now on, Judge Mills ruled, neither Holly Springs, nor its police force, will interfere with drive-in services.
Even when the rest of the country is closed, one thing that America should never have to re-open is religious freedom. As more churches weigh their next steps in the virus fight, FRC is here to help. For more on how your congregation should think about the upcoming changes and challenges, check out our new publication, “Guidelines for Reopening Your Church.”
Originally published here.
In States of Unborn Emergency
If there’s anything this crisis should have taught us, it’s the value of fighting for every life. So when Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear chose this moment to tell newborn children that they don’t deserve medical care, the state was stunned. “Reprehensible” was all state attorney general Daniel Cameron could say when he heard the news that Beshear had vetoed the Born-Alive Protection Act Friday. “The governor had a choice,” he shook his head, “and he used it to defend the indefensible.”
When reporters took time out of the press conference to ask the governor about it, his response was astounding. “[I’m] just not doing divisive issues right now,” he told them. But what could possibly be divisive about a bill that even 77 percent of “pro-choicers” support? Instead, he went on about how the infanticide issue would just pull people “one way or the other — creating discord in the middle of a time when we’ve got to be together. I just didn’t think it was the right direction for us to go.”
He didn’t think giving medical care to a fully born human child was the “right decision to go.” More than that, he thinks Kentucky doesn’t have time to save abortion survivors and handle the coronavirus at the same time — as if a single signature of his would suddenly stop every other emergency response in the state. “We have got to have 100 percent of our effort aimed toward [the virus],” he said defensively.
State House Speaker David Osborne (R) couldn’t have been more upset, telling reporters he was “outraged and saddened over the decision to veto a bill aimed at protecting human life.” “The governor, who claims to have everyday family values, vetoed a bill that would require babies born after failed abortions to receive live-saving medical care,” Cameron argued, calling it “an affront to the people of Kentucky.”
The timing, people pointed out, was also interesting — late Friday, before the weekend. Obviously, Beshear was trying to draw as little attention to the veto as possible. If that was the strategy, Planned Parenthood’s gushing praise didn’t help. Without the slightest bit of irony, the local chapter insisted, “A global pandemic is not the time to play political games with people’s lives.” No, it’s time to save them — which is what this law would have done. Fortunately for Kentucky, Osborne isn’t giving up. “This is not the end of this issue. The House Majority Caucus has been called the most pro-life in the history of our Commonwealth, and we will continue to fight for human life.”
Meanwhile, in Louisiana, Democratic governor, John Bel Edwards, who has done the right thing on issues like the heartbeat bill, couldn’t bring himself to enforce his own emergency order when it came to the state’s abortion clinics.
A week ago, he said that “time-sensitive” elective medical procedures could resume, an indication the coronavirus crisis is easing in the state. Some outpatient surgery centers had apparently been defying the Louisiana Department of Health’s (LDH) order to stop operating anyway, namely three abortion clinics in the state.
State Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office investigated the clinics to determine if they were in violation of LDH’s emergency order. The report was given to Governor Edwards, but instead of closing the clinics, he gave them his blessing to continue — without restraint.
Here’s a legitimate question: If abortion clinics can operate now with the governor’s full blessing, then why can’t churches and small businesses, who are in an even better position to adhere to the CDC distancing guidelines and sanitation protocols? Governor Edwards is expected to make an announcement about the reopening of the state soon, and we hope logic will apply. If the public health crisis has diminished to the point that the abortion industry can resume (rather, continue) operation, it stands to reason that others should as well.
Originally published here.
In Iran, a Hotspot of Misery
For the families lucky enough, there are still cemetery plots. But even grieving is different now, one Iranian says soberly. Not even flowers are allowed on the rows of fresh dirt. “People are dying left and right here,” a medic shook her head. “It’s the same way in all of our hospitals.” Signs of the country’s suffering are everywhere — even from space, where the trenches of mass graves are so big that satellites can’t help but notice. Like so many nations rocked by the virus, the scene feels the same — and yet, in the closed and punishing society of Iran, nothing is.
Some stories sound familiar — the reports of heroic doctors, of chaotic hospitals, of families shocked by the suddenness of their loss. But in a nation where this crisis is just one piece of a larger picture of hardship, the despair has taken on a darkness all its own. For Iranians, trapped under an oppressive regime and cut off from the rest of the world, the virus has taken the fight out of many of them. One widow says her husband was almost relieved to be infected. He was, as she said, already “hopeless.”
Long before this tragedy, the Iranian people were drowning in misery and neglect. Threats of war and starvation have hung over their heads for years, and the people endured it — having long ago lost their voice. Now, with an astonishing coronavirus death toll – the largest in the Middle East — anguish is heaped on anguish. And instead of turning its eye to the hurting, for once, the government is stoking the world’s anger with new threats. And last week’s military missile launch, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo fears, is just the beginning.
“[This] is real,” he said on “Washington Watch.” “The United States Government has had its eyes on [this program] for a period of time, but Iran has denied [it] to the world. They have said that their missile program was purely peaceful, that they were working on satellites for the sole purpose of commercial activity and then this past week announced that their [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] leadership team had launched a military satellite into orbit.” This, he points out, from the “largest sponsor of terrorism and the most anti-Semitic nation on the world stage.”
Of course, the United States has done its best to pressure the Iranian regime to back off its nuclear and long-range weapons systems. But unfortunately, Secretary Pompeo points out, “the money that was given to them under [Barack Obama’s] previous agreement has enabled them make significant advances. We’ve been doing our best with our pressure campaign, our diplomatic effort, to deter its effort, our economic effort to make the Iranian regime less capable, less well resourced. But they’re still there. And in spite of the fact that they’re having all these internal challenges from the virus, they continue to chip away, showing that they have the real intention of continuing to develop the systems to threaten America, threaten the world.”
Even now, with deaths upwards of 5,800, government officials are refusing to manage the crisis. Probably, Pompeo argued, because they’ve been too busy working on a disinformation campaign alongside the Chinese Communist Party, “suggesting that somehow the United States might be responsible for the virus… Those are the kind of things that regimes that don’t value human life do, whether it’s the Iranians or [another].” Their leaders would rather carry on rogue military programs than provide relief and protection to their own population. Close to 100,000 people are infected inside their borders — desperately in need of food, emergency supplies, and medicine. And what are the Iranians doing? Funneling hundreds of billions of dollars into programs that “foment terror.”
U.S. sanctions aren’t the problem. The government is. “Which is why we make very clear we are wholly supportive of the Iranian people, and we’re simply asking that the regime change the nature of its behavior and begin to comport with the norms of civilized society.”
For more on how you can pray for the Iranian people during this horrible time, check out this FRC column, “Iran’s Imprisoned Christians Face a New Danger: COVID-19.”
Originally published here.
This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.
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