Author Topic: Recent Surpreme Court Decision Concerning Churches  (Read 11139 times)

James S. Rustad

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Re: Recent Surpreme Court Decision Concerning Churches
« Reply #75 on: November 29, 2020, 06:37:52 PM »
https://abcnews.go.com/US/minnesota-sees-rise-covid-19-cases-tied-protests/story?id=71393938

That story reports on testing in protest sites. It has this paragraph:
The results are "very encouraging," the health official told ABC News. The official attributed the low infection rate to "the fact that many or most protesters were wearing masks, the events were outside, people were often able to maintain a 6-foot distance, and any exposures were of relatively shorter duration, not several hours to the same people in the same place."

Conclusion: The protests were not necessarily spreader events. They were different in style from certain political rallies, which kept people close together in one place for a long time, usually unprotected.

Thanks for the link about the Minnesota protests.  I guess those are another example of "Minnesota nice" given that protests in other states haven't followed the same precautions.

How about a link to evidence that properly run church services (with social distancing, masks, etc.) "are usually a worse risk than other places people go."  Note that articles about services not following the CDC recommendations don't count - those will have different results just like protests not following those recommendations have different results from the Minnesota protests.
« Last Edit: November 29, 2020, 06:41:25 PM by James S. Rustad »

FrPeters

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Re: Recent Surpreme Court Decision Concerning Churches
« Reply #76 on: November 29, 2020, 07:28:11 PM »
Quote
I'm talking about the additional "church" risks of closed spaces, imperfect spacing, singing and breathing close together, inadequate ventilation and in attendance for an hour or more.

Isn't this exactly the kind of false presumption which looks at the Church differently than other venues?  The church is a closed space in only one sense -- it has a roof and walls.  It is not closed in that the volume and square footage of an average church building is greater than an average school classroom or cafeteria, doctor's office, non-big box retailer, and restaurant.  Imperfect spacing happens everywhere but in every congregation I know the effort is made to over comply.  Singing and breathing close together happen within the individual family and generally not across people who are not of the same household and besides the science on this is mixed.  Inadequate ventilation is hardly a problem in buildings built with government mandated introduction of fresh air to HVAC systems and the heating season means the units are running (just as they were to cool the large cavernous spaces of a typical church earlier this year). 

For some reason, sometimes even from those within the Church, there is a presumption that Wal-Mart knows how to keep us safer than the Church.  Why does that false assumption still persist????

In my congregation no one has gotten COVID from worship or any other activity but we have had kids who got it from a teacher in school or retail workers who got it from co-workers or shoppers or health care workers who got it from patients or people who got it from idiotic relatives who were careless and foolish and reckless.  I am only going by the contact tracing relayed back to us.  In fact, a couple of weeks ago we had a couple who tested positive Sunday night after being in Church on Sunday morning but had no symptoms -- yet no one they were around on Sunday was infected BECAUSE of the distancing of the seating (and masks) and the adequate ventilation, among other things.  Not one person had symptoms or tested positive because of them.. 
Fr Larry Peters
Grace LCMS, Clarksville, TN
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Charles Austin

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Re: Recent Surpreme Court Decision Concerning Churches
« Reply #77 on: November 29, 2020, 08:46:11 PM »
Pastor Peters writes:
For some reason, sometimes even from those within the Church, there is a presumption that Wal-Mart knows how to keep us safer than the Church.  Why does that false assumption still persist?

I comment:
Maybe because Wal-Mart, with hundreds of stores, millions of workers and customers and vulnerable to beaucoup lawsuits if they screw it up, have spent a good bit of money making sure that their workers and customers are safe.
Meanwhile, our little (or big) churches haven't had to worry about anything safety-wise except fire codes(which we do reluctantly because those red "Exit" signs clutter the piety of the sanctuary), and are known for violating safe food-handling rules at pot-lucks, Easter Breakfasts and fund-raising spaghetti suppers.
Safe in a place? I'll take Wal-Mart over a church any day.
P.S. My family ran a restaurant and my father wouldn't help with meals at church because he contended the kitchen and serving area could not be made safe and the church ladies serving were careless in handling food. And this was decades ago.
Retired ELCA pastor. Iowa born. In Minnesota. Still concerned about The Church and nation. Catholics: scandals, cover-ups. Evangelicals: hypocrisy, venality. Progressives: loss of focus. Denominations: dying. Our Constitution: In danger from crazies. Clinging, I am, to signs of hope.

FrPeters

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Re: Recent Surpreme Court Decision Concerning Churches
« Reply #78 on: November 29, 2020, 10:51:05 PM »
Anecdotal evidence from generations ago about pot lucks has little in common with the rigorous work churches do so that they may remain open.  Unless the people in Minnesota are reckless and careless, I would presume more of a typical Lutheran congregation than apparently you do.  For what its worth, both of my sons work for the Wal-Mart corp in management and they both admit that Wal-Mart, despite its millions, cannot enforce social distancing, one way traffic down aisles or even mask wearing.  That pretty much mirrors what I see when, once in a blue moon, I visit any big chain store.
Fr Larry Peters
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peter_speckhard

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Re: Recent Surpreme Court Decision Concerning Churches
« Reply #79 on: November 29, 2020, 10:59:36 PM »
How on earth is a pot luck any less sanitary than cooking for oneís own family at home? There is some sort of bizarre phobia about contagion involved with the idea that we need to so obsessive about having an antiseptic environment.

J. Thomas Shelley

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Re: Recent Surpreme Court Decision Concerning Churches
« Reply #80 on: November 29, 2020, 11:18:14 PM »
There is some sort of bizarre phobia about contagion involved with the idea that we need to so obsessive about having an antiseptic environment.

My former congregation became obsessed with the notion that they could "keep everyone safe" as Pennsylvania reopened.

The Lord's Supper was the first casualty.  There was no way to administer it "at this time" and "keep everyone safe".

After nearly nine months of Sacramental starvation in late December there will at last be a service at which folks "who choose to do so" may take one of those prefilled coffee-creamer style "Remembrance" thingys with their bulletin and then partake at the proper time at the direction of the supply pastor.

Strangely, I can't conceive of a manger in a stable being an antiseptic environment.
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Charles Austin

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Re: Recent Surpreme Court Decision Concerning Churches
« Reply #81 on: November 29, 2020, 11:19:30 PM »
I guess Iím not trying to convince anybody of anything here, because that would be impossible.
Believe what you choose to believe. Take what precautions you think are necessary. Take no precautions if you donít think any are necessary.
Because the most important thing in all of life at this time is having our churches ďopen,Ē not public health, not risking the health of our neighbors, not even the potential death of our neighbors, but the most important thing is having our churches ďopen.ď
Because to accept enforced restrictions would mean completely forever and ever giving up ďreligious freedom.ď
Because it would be impossible to practice our faith without having our churches wide open.
Because how could our people possibly maintain their faith if we clergy were not standing in front of them in person every Sunday telling them what to do.
Because our churches do not seem to be super-spreaders; weíre only mini-spreaders, possibly only affecting two, maybe three people; not a big deal.
We cannot let the Godless institutions of our secular society tell us what to do. Thatís what our faith requires and our freedom is all about, right?
I am now in favor of everyone doing whatever they want to do.

P.S to Peter:
Itís not about contagion; itís about food safety, not contaminating food by improper handling or unclean facilities and causing foodborne illness. Providing food for 20, 30, 50, or 100 people is quite different from cooking for your own family.
I repeat what I just said. I am now in favor of everyone doing whatever they want to do.

P.S. to J.Thomas Shelley
There are safe ways to distribute holy communion. We are not happy with some of them, and we donít want to take the trouble to do some of them.
« Last Edit: November 29, 2020, 11:24:29 PM by Charles Austin »
Retired ELCA pastor. Iowa born. In Minnesota. Still concerned about The Church and nation. Catholics: scandals, cover-ups. Evangelicals: hypocrisy, venality. Progressives: loss of focus. Denominations: dying. Our Constitution: In danger from crazies. Clinging, I am, to signs of hope.

James S. Rustad

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Re: Recent Surpreme Court Decision Concerning Churches
« Reply #82 on: November 30, 2020, 08:05:00 AM »
I guess Iím not trying to convince anybody of anything here, because that would be impossible.
Believe what you choose to believe. Take what precautions you think are necessary. Take no precautions if you donít think any are necessary.
Because the most important thing in all of life at this time is having our churches ďopen,Ē not public health, not risking the health of our neighbors, not even the potential death of our neighbors, but the most important thing is having our churches ďopen.ď
Because to accept enforced restrictions would mean completely forever and ever giving up ďreligious freedom.ď
Because it would be impossible to practice our faith without having our churches wide open.
Because how could our people possibly maintain their faith if we clergy were not standing in front of them in person every Sunday telling them what to do.
Because our churches do not seem to be super-spreaders; weíre only mini-spreaders, possibly only affecting two, maybe three people; not a big deal.
We cannot let the Godless institutions of our secular society tell us what to do. Thatís what our faith requires and our freedom is all about, right?
I am now in favor of everyone doing whatever they want to do.

P.S to Peter:
Itís not about contagion; itís about food safety, not contaminating food by improper handling or unclean facilities and causing foodborne illness. Providing food for 20, 30, 50, or 100 people is quite different from cooking for your own family.
I repeat what I just said. I am now in favor of everyone doing whatever they want to do.

P.S. to J.Thomas Shelley
There are safe ways to distribute holy communion. We are not happy with some of them, and we donít want to take the trouble to do some of them.

I don't recall anyone here advocating for "having our churches wide open".  Please point me to such posts as I would agree that they advocate foolish behavior.

I do recall people advocating for having our churches open while taking appropriate precautions.  It would seem that if businesses like movie theaters are allowed to be open (as they are in Wisconsin and at least some other states) that it would be as safe to open a church.  If you have evidence to the contrary, please point it out.

David Garner

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Re: Recent Surpreme Court Decision Concerning Churches
« Reply #83 on: November 30, 2020, 09:37:30 AM »
I find it beyond fascinating that the Supreme Court saying churches must be treated equally has somehow been received by some folks as "churches don't have to take any precautions or take the virus seriously."

The only effect of the Supreme Court's decision is that churches are now required to take the virus only as seriously as other similar establishments.  No more, no less.  Yet it seems too many believe that the effect of treating churches equally is to grant them special treatment, instead of what is real, which is they are not allowed to be arbitrarily treated as if they are higher risks than other similar gatherings.
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peter_speckhard

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Re: Recent Surpreme Court Decision Concerning Churches
« Reply #84 on: November 30, 2020, 09:59:50 AM »
I find it beyond fascinating that the Supreme Court saying churches must be treated equally has somehow been received by some folks as "churches don't have to take any precautions or take the virus seriously."

The only effect of the Supreme Court's decision is that churches are now required to take the virus only as seriously as other similar establishments.  No more, no less.  Yet it seems too many believe that the effect of treating churches equally is to grant them special treatment, instead of what is real, which is they are not allowed to be arbitrarily treated as if they are higher risks than other similar gatherings.
It makes much more sense to issue guidelines, but if they have to be rules related to contagion they should be unrelated to the purpose of the gathering. That is, the government should recognize its own incompetence to determine people's values. If you the rule that people come no closer to each other than six feet for more than a minute, then they can do whatever they want as long as they only come closer than six feet for less than a minute. That is the sort of rule that could apply to everyone. But when they differentiate according to your purpose for getting together, playing favorites, so to speak, they invite trouble needlessly.   

James S. Rustad

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Re: Recent Surpreme Court Decision Concerning Churches
« Reply #85 on: November 30, 2020, 10:04:25 AM »
And here is an example of an order closing schools being reinstated by a circuit court because church schools were treated equally with public and other private schools:

Sixth Circuit Reinstates Governor's Closure of Kentucky Schools
A district court had held the closure likely violated the Free Exercise Clause; no, says, the Sixth Circuit.

Treat religious organizations equally with non-religious organizations and restrictions are OK.  Treat them differently (as in NY) and restrictions are not OK.

peter_speckhard

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Re: Recent Surpreme Court Decision Concerning Churches
« Reply #86 on: November 30, 2020, 10:18:06 AM »
And here is an example of an order closing schools being reinstated by a circuit court because church schools were treated equally with public and other private schools:

Sixth Circuit Reinstates Governor's Closure of Kentucky Schools
A district court had held the closure likely violated the Free Exercise Clause; no, says, the Sixth Circuit.

Treat religious organizations equally with non-religious organizations and restrictions are OK.  Treat them differently (as in NY) and restrictions are not OK.
But again, what if the school could so arrange the desks in the gymnasium or cafeteria that classes could continue? Why not issue the restrictions, equally and to all, and let people figure out how to abide by them and whether that means closing, rearranging, changing hours, or whatever? Then there is no chance of bias. But the minute the law says you can do x if this is your reason for doing it, but not if that is your reason for doing it, you're opening up a huge can of worms.

D. Engebretson

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Re: Recent Surpreme Court Decision Concerning Churches
« Reply #87 on: November 30, 2020, 10:44:59 AM »
And here is an example of an order closing schools being reinstated by a circuit court because church schools were treated equally with public and other private schools:

Sixth Circuit Reinstates Governor's Closure of Kentucky Schools
A district court had held the closure likely violated the Free Exercise Clause; no, says, the Sixth Circuit.

Treat religious organizations equally with non-religious organizations and restrictions are OK.  Treat them differently (as in NY) and restrictions are not OK.
But again, what if the school could so arrange the desks in the gymnasium or cafeteria that classes could continue? Why not issue the restrictions, equally and to all, and let people figure out how to abide by them and whether that means closing, rearranging, changing hours, or whatever? Then there is no chance of bias. But the minute the law says you can do x if this is your reason for doing it, but not if that is your reason for doing it, you're opening up a huge can of worms.

And as was noted previously, the labeling of some businesses and services as "essential" as opposed to others, was unfortunate.  A church is not "essential" to a sizeable portion of the population.  It certainly isn't seen as "essential" to the government.  But the idea of essential has changed as people adapt to new ways of shopping and securing certain services.  Is Walmart essential?  Not to some to have everything shipped directly to their house. 

I like Peter's idea of setting standards and requiring everyone to find a way to adapt.  That is precisely what most churches have done that are allowed to be open.  For months now since the state lifted the stay-at-home order in WI, we have taken all proper and necessary precautions as per CDC guidelines.  Holy Communion has been served to those who attend for nearly half a year now. A nurse well-versed in these guidelines helped me develop the protocols.  I take the extra precaution of wearing a KN-95 mask.  The government does not require me to do so.  People are distanced just as well as any line I've stood in at the local department stores or grocery stores.  And those silly pexiglass shields don't offer any real protection anyway.  In most cases they erect a small barrier that is so narrow it still leaves the clerk open when exchanging money and handing back the receipt.

Protection on the 'outside world' is always spotty and full of some risk.  One man came to church yesterday after being gone since mid-March. Prior to the pandemic he had been hospitalized with a serious lung infection and knew he shouldn't venture too far from home.  But there he was in line to receive the blessed Sacrament, masked and socially distanced.  I expressed surprise in seeing him, knowing his situation, and he said, in so many words, that this is going to go on forever.  He just needed to come back. 

As I have ministered directly to people in the midst of this pandemic I have seen the need for people to have real time contact with the means of grace.  As we enter into this sacred season of Advent the best theological word I can use, at this point, is incarnational.  God took on human flesh and dwelt among us.  He was immersed in the real time messiness of this world.  He lived with daily risk.  I believe that some Christians understand this incarnational concept as they wrestle with worship.  Those who came to me early on for private communion certainly did.  They didn't care that it was on a cardboard table only a few feet into the building.  They partook of the body and blood of Christ.  Even a man I recently buried ventured out for this sacrament.  He was in his upper 80s with COPD.  But as I gave him the elements he looked at me and said "Thank you."  I think this crisis has caused us to really go back and see the value of this incarnational reality of our faith. 
« Last Edit: November 30, 2020, 10:47:31 AM by D. Engebretson »
Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI

David Garner

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Re: Recent Surpreme Court Decision Concerning Churches
« Reply #88 on: November 30, 2020, 12:41:26 PM »
The key as I see it, Pastor Engebretson, is that "essential" versus "non-essential" does not undo the First Amendment and the Free Exercise Clause.  That is, whether some folks find religion to be "non-essential" is not an argument in favor of discriminating against religious groups by classifying them as "non-essential."  This is the same fundamental argument made in the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision, where Justice Kennedy said "just as 'no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion,' it is not, as the Court has repeatedly held, the role of the State or its officials to prescribe what shall be offensive."  Change "offensive" to "essential" as regards religion (or politics, or nationalism, or other matters of opinion) and the same result is mandated.  Which is why it is so very disheartening to see Justice Roberts side with those who would claim the ability to make such judgments on behalf of all simply because we are in a health emergency.

I also agree with you and Pastor Speckhard that adults must be allowed to make decisions for themselves at some level, and for their own children.  The government can encourage, and in some cases mandate, risk-avoidance.  But at some level, the risk is mine to take.  Where to draw that line is important, because (for example) I can impose my high risk tolerance on elderly parents who rely upon me to care for them, etc.  So I'm not arguing in favor of no lines being drawn.  But I would join you both in arguing against a nanny state approach, especially when it comes to matters under Constitutional protection (such as the exercise of religion).  Government does not exist to constrain the populace.  It does, to some extent, exist to protect us, but that includes protecting all our interests, not just those interests government deems valuable.
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D. Engebretson

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Re: Recent Surpreme Court Decision Concerning Churches
« Reply #89 on: November 30, 2020, 01:48:27 PM »
The key as I see it, Pastor Engebretson, is that "essential" versus "non-essential" does not undo the First Amendment and the Free Exercise Clause.  That is, whether some folks find religion to be "non-essential" is not an argument in favor of discriminating against religious groups by classifying them as "non-essential."  This is the same fundamental argument made in the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision, where Justice Kennedy said "just as 'no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion,' it is not, as the Court has repeatedly held, the role of the State or its officials to prescribe what shall be offensive."  Change "offensive" to "essential" as regards religion (or politics, or nationalism, or other matters of opinion) and the same result is mandated.  Which is why it is so very disheartening to see Justice Roberts side with those who would claim the ability to make such judgments on behalf of all simply because we are in a health emergency.

I also agree with you and Pastor Speckhard that adults must be allowed to make decisions for themselves at some level, and for their own children.  The government can encourage, and in some cases mandate, risk-avoidance.  But at some level, the risk is mine to take.  Where to draw that line is important, because (for example) I can impose my high risk tolerance on elderly parents who rely upon me to care for them, etc.  So I'm not arguing in favor of no lines being drawn.  But I would join you both in arguing against a nanny state approach, especially when it comes to matters under Constitutional protection (such as the exercise of religion).  Government does not exist to constrain the populace.  It does, to some extent, exist to protect us, but that includes protecting all our interests, not just those interests government deems valuable.

Well said. Thank you.
Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI