Dealing with COVID-19 and religious liberty of the Church


07 Apr

       The last ninety days has been hard on numerous countries and the church in particular.  It seems that what started as a sickness from an unknown source has now been identified as the coronavirus which has wreaked havoc worldwide.  This has put unexpected strains in many countries and yet out of the ashes of disaster arises the phoenix of opportunity.  Now many companies have taken it upon themselves to makes face mask so that an abundant supply can be shipped to the people that need them.

      People began hoarding supplies early on which created a shortage of supplies.  Government officials have instituted mandatory stay at home orders to control the rise of infected people.  Non-profits organizations such as churches have suffered financially and are left with the moral decision of considering taking government-backed loans in this time of financial emergency.  And also, how churches think about the restrictions the government has placed on gatherings.

      There are concerns to be considered when a church accepts financial help from the government because the separation between church and state cannot be violated.  And yet the recently passed CARES Act purports to compensate the church for damages resulting from complying with a government request.  Churches count in the generosity of the parishioner’s donations weekly and if the church is closed for 2,3 or 4 months then no money is coming in and the debt grows.  The mortgage, utility and other bills are due and without donations, the bills cannot be paid.

 Prohibiting gatherings

 Hebrews 10:25 says, “let us not neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near”.   By the principle of Romans 13:1-7, the government has the authority to make certain decisions for the benefit and welfare of the community under its rule.

    According to the U.S. constitution citizens have the liberty to do as they want including the right to assemble until the government interferes with this liberty.  Then the government has to provide the reason why it must restrict personal liberty.  For example: in Chicago and many other states, a gathering of 10 or more has been prohibited for fear that the infection will spread.  Other measures taken are the stay at home order; limiting food purchases; leaving home for certain reasons and going to work only if you are employed for essential jobs.

    Church pastors are holding worship via skype, via online broadcast, they are recording on their website and doing other ways to get the word to the people.  God gave us all common sense and the government isn’t trying to break up and take over the church.  We see these measures taken now as a way to get past this pandemic so that damage is minimized and we can get back to our lives.

     Our ideal meeting conditions may not be an option, but complaining about an ideal that could harm others, while alternatives remain available, is just not a good look.

    Instead, let us use this time to grow a newfound dependency on the Lord. Being stripped of our luxuries is painful, but it always produces spiritual growth (Romans 5:3-4; James 1:2-4).

     Religious liberty is meant to serve the common good of society by availing people the means to live peaceful lives devoted to God. Religious liberty is severely undermined when it is faulted for leading to increased infection.  Fighting over religious liberty means choosing the right battles. This is not it.

     May God give you the strength, discipline, wisdom, and power to make the right choices.  You are not alone in this fight so surrender your doubts and fears to Jesus and the Spirit will be with you always.


Pr. Ortiz

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