For the last two weeks, many have wondered why officials in some cities maintain coronavirus-related bans on smaller church gatherings while allowing mass protests following the death of George Floyd.
In Madison, Wis., Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway announced a 50-person cap on in-person worship but did not subject public protests to any governmental restrictions despite concerns about the spread of COVID-19. Under pressure from local Catholic bishops and a letter from the religious liberty law firm Becket, public health officials removed the cap on Friday. A new order allows churches to open at 25 percent capacity, the same limit applied to shopping malls and theaters.
But in New York City, gathering restrictions virtually ban church services while large protests proceed unimpeded. Mayor Bill de Blasio argued last week that protests deserve an exception while church services do not.
“When you see a nation, an entire nation simultaneously grappling with an extraordinary crisis seeded in 400 years of American racism, I’m sorry, that is not the same question as the understandably aggrieved store owner or the devout religious person who wants to go back to services,” he told a reporter for the Orthodox Jewish publication Hamodia.
Other lawmakers have criticized the distinction.
“You don’t get to pick and choose First Amendment freedoms,” said Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., according to National Review. “You don’t get to side with protesters and slough off churches and synagogues.” —S.W.