SocraticGadfly: Could the government force bible-rejecting churches to close during the pandemic?

March 26, 2020

Could the government force bible-rejecting churches
to close during the pandemic?

I find it "interesting" to see the number of Protestant churches, largely non-denominational, independent churches in a generally Baptist, or more broadly, Anabaptist conservative evangelical background, rebelling against the government on coronavirus issues.

I'm not talking about general minimalizing of the severity of the virus or anything like that.

Rather, I'm talking about the ministers of such churches continuing to hold services, and in many cases, without multiple smaller-size services, in direct defiance of government proclamations.

(I have further explicated what I see as the likely main motives of these ministers in this new post.)

The big civil-government question? Could the government force churches to close "for the duration" if deemed necessary.

Short answer?

Hellz yes.

And, folks, that link goes to a story in the Deseret News, officially owned by The Morons, I mean the LSD Church, I mean the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. (Yes, wingnuts, I laugh at them, but it's a church denomination that tilts VERY conservative among political preference of its members; that's why I jumped on this.)

Here's the nut grafs:
Legal experts said the answer is almost certainly yes, as long as regulations are reasonable and applied equally across all religious groups and other types of organizations. 
Policies don’t violate religious freedom laws if they’re created in order to save people’s lives, said Michael Moreland, director of the Ellen H. McCullen Center for Law, Religion and Public Policy at Villanova University. 
“So long as those restrictions are neutral and applicable to everybody, religious institutions have to abide by them,” he said.
There you go. I encourage reading that whole linked story in the first paragraph of the pull quote.

But these independent Protestants, whether truly wingnut rebels, or people who started independent churches because they thought either some worshipers, or their own wallets, couldn't survive without exactly their church? Don't want to accept that.

It's halfway tempting to compare many of them to Paul's man of lawlessness in 2 Thessalonians:
2 Thessalonians 2:3-10 (selected) New International Version (NIV) 
3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness[a] is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4 He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.
...  9 The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, 10 and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
Actually, "Paul" should probably be in scare quotes; the majority of modern scholarship considers this pseudepigraphal, albeit with lack of consensus on when it actually was written.

Note that I said "halfway" tempting. I don't think this idea is all wet.

Certainly, the actual Paul, in one of his legitimate letters, would be highly concerned.

I am thinking of his famous "submit to the governing authorities in Romans 13.
13 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. 
That nails it.

That said, that passage has been ignored by U.S. Protestants since 1775 or before.

Ordained Presbyterian minister John Witherspoon was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and those a minister in a state of grievous sin. Boston's Old North Church, driven by hotheads such as Sam Adams, was a ground zero of rebelliousness.

And, Romans 13 is crystal clear. No exceptions.

Paul's thought, as well as framework, are derived from the Stoic diatribe. Epictetus, for example, would have no problem agreeing with this.

Let's not forget the background of much American Protestantism.

Congregationalists were Puritans and Separatists who had rebelled against the Church of England and the ruling monarch, to lesser or greater degrees, respectively. Baptists, starting with the likes of Roger Williams, then rebelled against those Puritans and Separatists. Presbyterians had rebelled against their Stuart monarchs in Scotland when, like Mary, they remained Catholic, or when, like the Stuarts from James VI on, when he became James I in London as well, tilted Church of England and pushed for a similar Church of Scotland.

On the flip side, Methodists and Lutherans have generally accepted state authority more readily.

But Romans 13 is still clear. Period.

And, if there are ministers the likes of Jim Bakker peddling magic cures?

2 Thessalonians 2:9 I think has that covered.


Update, July 26: My take on Gov. Gavin Newsom's latest orders and the latest round of sinful rebellion in California.

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