The men and women who settled the New World and built what came to be known as America did it first and foremost to honor God. The character of these early Americans was brought to life in a documentary, Monumental, which shows how their urgency of purpose led to their relentless fight to get away from the government-run church in England and flee religious persecution to live their lives as God ordained.
These past few months of COVID shutdowns have been a trying time. People have lost their daily routines – in many cases their livelihoods – and now they are losing their malls, neighborhoods, and cities as a result of rioting. Yet, state and local officials are still trying to restrict the one thing that can help in times of desperation – our churches. The early colonists must be turning in their graves to see the religious persecution going on in our country right now.
During the pandemic, many pastors and churches were targeted by state and local officials for exercising their God-given, constitutional right to worship — including perfectly safe, drive-thru parking lot services. Many Democrat governors who in the past called for the absolute separation of church and state now want the state to control the church.
Maine Gov. Janet Mills and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker are just two examples.
Gov. Pritzker declared that churches would not be able to fully meet, and freedom would not be returned, until a COVID vaccination was available and that “everyone” in Illinois had been given the vaccine. In other words – no church until everyone gets vaccinated.
Pritzker even threatened to arrest and fine pastors and church goers. When that didn’t stop pastors from holding church, he threatened the possible bulldozing of church buildings through “Summary Abatement.”
Similarly, Gov. Mills prohibited all church gatherings, including drive-in church services, “due to the coronavirus.” She said that churches would not be able to reopen until she was satisfied with the “metrics,” but she would not say what those “metrics” were. So, she left it open to possibly never being satisfied.
Gov. Mills also wants to dictate which churches Christians will be allowed to attend.
Adding insult to injury, Gov. Mills had planned that after the so-called “metrics” are reached, churches must apply to reopen, and would be chosen based on a checklist of requirements developed by the state.
Churches that fully comply with Gov. Mills’ demands, and are approved by her, would be given a “badge” to display outside their church indicating the church has fully complied and is approved by Gov. Mills.
Meanwhile, Gov. Mills decreed that several sectors of industry NOT protected by the Constitution may open, including “big box,” home improvement, and liquor stores… but not churches.
While it is debatable whether governors may dictate business closures, the First Amendment protection of religious liberty is non-debatable. Local, state, and federal governments may not dictate rules to churches – including when and how those churches worship. That would be a form of religious persecution.
The very idea of “Governor-Approved Churches” goes against the First Amendment.
Constitutionally, there can be no government-authorized church in the U.S. That’s exactly what brought the Pilgrims and the Puritans to America in the first place. They wanted to separate themselves completely from the official (Anglican) Church of England. But that was against the law under the reign of King James. So when they tried to start their own congregations and live by God’s Word, they were persecuted. They fled to the New World in search of religious liberty.
That’s why the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution clearly forbids the government from making any law “respecting the establishment of religion.” Nor can government restrict the free exercise of religion, which includes preventing someone from attending church. Dictating which churches are “approved” and requiring “approved” churches to display a government-issued badge on the building are clear violations of the First Amendment.
The American people have a First Amendment right to worship without government restrictions. The government has no right to tell us how, when, or if we can worship – or what we must put in our bodies in order to worship.
Did you know the Bible also forbids civil government from interfering with the church?
The purpose of government is to create civil order. In the Scriptures, the king did not have jurisdiction over the priest, nor the priest over the king. Even in Old Testament times, kings were forbidden to interfere or dictate to the rulers of the religious order.
A perfect example can be found in 1 Samuel 13. The downfall of King Saul happened when he took it upon himself to perform priestly duties. As a result, the prophet Samuel warned Saul that his kingdom would come to an end because of his disobedient act of performing priestly functions.
Kings are not priests or pastors, and neither are governors.
State-sponsored and controlled churches have no place in our Constitutional Republic. Regardless of “good intentions,” health regulations or safety concerns, there is no pandemic “pause button” on the Constitution.
On May 22, 2020, President Trump responded to the cries of the people. He classified churches, synagogues and mosques as “essential” institutions and said that if governors declined to reopen them he would “override” them. But what other restrictions will tyrannical governments try to impose on Christians and people of faith?
Join the movement of Christians who refuse to sit on the sidelines. Here are two ways you can help fight against the rise of religious persecution in our country:
Connect with My Faith Votes, and become a part of the movement of Christians who turn their faith into action and vote in every election.
Fund the Fight for Our Churches by giving to Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit legal organization that defends the rights of Christians and upholds our values in court.