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Supreme Court denies Nevada church's appeal of attendance restriction amid coronavirus pandemic

You can add Nevada alongside California, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, to name a few, as another state discriminating against churches, which is to say religion, in the name of public health. And in this latest instance the Supreme Court of the United States backed Nevada’s constitutionally overreaching state officials.

I’ve been pointing to state government overreach in the name of public health vis-a-vis a percentage of the population at risk short term, i.e., people who contract the coronavirus and need to take precautions.

And I’ve noted a rapidly growing threat to the First Amendment – not just religion but also the suppression of freedom of speech.

This brief “Wall Street Journal” piece, including an excellent short video herein, addresses the onslaught on freedom of speech we’re now seeing nearly every day, often not just from “protesters” but from the lips of foolish opportunistic politicians. 

While the virus is serious and deserves reasonable response—I am not contending otherwise. I just don’t think medical and health evidence indicates the coronavirus pandemic, though clearly a virulent illness, is ultimately any more threatening than the flu or pneumonia. Certainly, it does not justify lockdowns, shuttering businesses and torpedoing economies, creating rampant unemployment and collateral suffering, all while forcing healthy people to quarantine themselves or otherwise live in hysteria.

That said, the demonstrably evident and increasing willingness of state and local political leaders to take actions, i.e. “executive orders,” undermining the first freedoms, including religion, speech, assembly, is a much greater plague that affects not just a portion of the population but 100% of the population now and future. 

This is not a peripheral issue. It is not alarmist. The First Amendment has never been more threatened than it now is. If we lose what the First Amendment protects tyranny wins.

The First Amendment, the foundational and distinctive American ideal for all citizens has never been at greater risk.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020    

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

Remember Aesop’s Fable about people foolishly killing the goose that laid golden eggs?  The idea is that short-term greed can motivate people to do stupid things that undermine their long-term well-being.

If we think of the USA as the goose, so to speak, then the golden egg is our individual liberty, including freedom of speech and freedom of religion, specifically as guarded by the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution.

So I could make the case that we are in the process today of killing the goose that laid the golden egg. 

    1. Government overreach responding to the Pandemic.

State governors and city mayors ran roughshod over constitutional civil liberties in the name of public health. Of course, not every decision they made was wrong or bad, but some of them were certainly unwise, even tyrannical. For example, in Michigan, churches were forced to close while abortion clinics, marijuana and liquor stores remained open. In Louisville, church attendees were threatened with surveillance. In Kansas City, an official wanted a list of all church members so his department could track them re public health. In Pennsylvania, churches were threatened by the governor, and in Minnesota churches sued a state public health official for that office's draconian and discriminatory treatment of churches. In California recently, churches were told not to sing during services. 

                 2.  Lawless riots overpowering lawful protest responding to racial injustice, police brutality concerns.

While peaceful protestors tried to make their frustrations about racial injustice known in cities across the country, they were soon and often over-run by people more interested in larceny, looting, arson, and destruction. 

In the name of racial justice, lawless agitators destroyed or defaced statues of Confederate officers, but then well beyond obvious connections to race,defaced or destroyed the statues of abolitionists, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, even Abraham Lincoln and Boston’s monument to the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, an all-Black group of Union soldiers who fought against slavery and the Confederacy. Minority businesses and neighborhoods have been burned or otherwise trashed. In Portland, a statue of an elk was burned, why, no one seems to know, other than anarchy.

Meanwhile, in many cities and states, politicians who earlier had quickly acted in aggressive top-down-power fashion re public health, either stood by helplessly or actually ordered police departments to stand down as mobs trashed their locales.

This kind of arbitrary action or no action vis-à-vis freedom of expression is, to say the least, concerning.

                 3.  Big Social Media Tech: Facebook and Instagram, YouTube and Google, Twitter, and Big Biz: Amazon, positioning itself as arbiter of what’s worthy communications base on its ideological, politically correct viewpoints.

Big Social Media Tech operates with near impunity, blocking content that disagrees with the “accepted” view of C-19 response—in the name of public health calling the blocked material “dangerous” or “misinformation”—block content shared by Christian worship leaders or conservative websites like Prager U, even some of President Trump’s tweets. Certain books that question the legitimacy of LGBTQ+ mantras are rejected from sale via Amazon.

Online communication companies were given protection from lawsuits under the Communication Decency Act, but this assumed they would function as neutral forums and thus could not be libel for what people posted. But of course, now, Facebook/Instagram, Twitter, and Google/YouTube are not neutral.

               4.  Politicians pandering to special interests, again with little regard for constitutional rights.

Politicians are not having their finest hour. Some think they can wield power without concern for constitutional limitations. Others stand by as rioters destroy their neighborhoods. Some politicians even bowed their knee in a bit of political theater making the photo opp they wanted but also making themselves look foolish. Meanwhile, politicians cannot find it in themselves to condemn rioters, this for fear of angering the mob.

               5.  Major public universities creating “free speech zones” and “safe spaces,” limiting discussion of certain topics to just these areas. 

The great day of the public universities as bastions of free inquiry is over. Today, public universities have been captured by people who really don’t believe in truth or a search for truth, or allowing others to hold views with which they are uncomfortable. Free speech on the public university campuses of America is at grave risk

The USA is not perfect.  Never has been. Its history has been checkered by great nobility and great ignobility, triumph and tragedy in social action. But the US is the “First New Nation,” the first and only country ever formed to advance the cause of freedom, including especially life, religious and economic liberty.

From time to time, I’ve reminded people not to confuse what biblical Christianity is about with how the Church or individual Christians, including me, behave.

America is like that. It’s America’s ideals that make it special, not always what we Americans have done.  

Then again, our forebears did a lot of things right as well as things wrong. They handed us a free country, that like Benjamin Franklin, who after a session at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, was asked by a lady what kind of country we would have. He said America would be “a republic, if you can keep it.”

We’ve been given a goose that lays golden eggs. I hope we don’t kill it.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020    

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

Whatever your view of various state responses to C-19, I hope one thing that comes out of this experience is that we now understand and value our freedom--particularly what it is to not have it--maybe like never before: worship, speech, assembly, mobility for example. 

1-Perhaps we'll be more inclined to learn what civil liberties are and respect what others sacrificed to provide them.

2-Perhaps we'll grasp that civil liberties are not something government grants to citizens, but as noted in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights are "unalienable" natural rights people already possess as human beings and as such are something government may not take from citizens.

3-Perhaps we'll be more sensitive to others in our own country or abroad who do not yet possess these freedoms.

4-Perhaps we'll see why every political philosopher who's written about civil liberties has observed how quickly and easily they can be lost.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020    

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

Americans express angst about perceived slights, biases, denial of rights, to the point some citizens now consider their own country and its ideals corrupt and unworthy. 

I’m not suggesting these social problems are not real, but I’m grateful that in the US a free society in which to debate, a gift from those who sacrificed, actually exists. 

In several countries in the Middle East (and other regions) millions are far worse off: freedom of speech and religion are suppressed, churches burned, women, minorities have no rights, and the vulnerable are persecuted, tortured, killed.

Perspective matters.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution 

statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

1-“Freedom of religion” is the opportunity to believe or not believe, practice or not practice, evangelize and proselytize, or change from one to another religion, denomination, church/temple/mosque, or none at all. It includes conscience and worship but is much more public. Authoritarian regimes the world over, including the Middle East and North Africa, often do not permit freedom of religion. 2-Yet unbelievably, today, the “First Amendment” of the US Constitution is under attack because some Americans, ironically in the name of tolerance, no longer subscribe to its ideals: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…” 3-Do not let anyone tell you restricting these civil liberties – actually, I’d say inalienable rights – do not matter, for they are our “first freedoms,“ fundamental and essential to our present and future free society.

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020

*This article may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers at www.rexmrogers.com/. Follow at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.

Word is TSA is moving toward review and revision of airport check-in procedures. This is good. But I’m tempted to say “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Since the agency was formed in the wake of 9/11 it’s pretty much done whatever it wants to do. This is to say with news of any threat anywhere, TSA has added new, perplexing, and ever more personally invasive requirements for getting past security and on to ones gate. For a lot of travelers it’s become a toss-up as to whether they feel safer or just hassled to distraction.

I’ve written on this subject several times, I guess, because I travel so much. I see the inconsistencies from port to port, and I’ve been subjected to more than my share of odd requirements—take your belt off; no, you don’t need to take off your belt; put your shoes on the conveyer; no, put your shoes in the bins; take everything out of your pockets; come on through, it doesn’t matter you forgot to move a pen from your pocket to a bin. And so it goes.

I’ve also seen what I consider outright invasions of a person’s bodily space—not mine, but other passengers who’ve been chosen for pat-downs. This should not happen to citizens in a free country, because it treats them as criminals without benefit of probable cause, trial of ones peers, or a presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Passengers have had it and are complaining loudly and more often to Washington.

I’ve maintained all along that there’s got to be a better way. Now TSA is finally admitting there may be, hence the openness at least to review the system. The agency is under political pressure and I hope it continues until intelligent changes are made.

I’m not anti-TSA, despite how this piece may sound. I’m certainly not anti-security. I am against knee-jerk reaction, un-reviewed procedures, lack of choice, inconsistency, and until perhaps now, a willingness to consider creative alternatives.

So, here’s hoping rational adult minds will prevail and we can return to some kind of normalcy that respects individual citizen’s rights and affirms propriety and freedom along with law and order.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.