As the COVID-19 virus continues to wreak havoc on our daily lives, we are all struggling to regain our balance.

There are groups protesting stay-at home orders and others protesting about being made to work when others do not.  Now we have the ones who are shooting and hurting employees who inform them about wearing a mask inside certain businesses.

Some folks have proven they will pick a fight on any subject.

States were given a three -step process to re-open after the nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread. The steps included the decrease in cases over a 14 -day period.  Each state put their own spin on that guidance and did what they wanted to do.

One of the restrictions that was enacted nationwide brought anguish to church members across the United States.  Churches were ordered to limit the number of people that could gather to worship.  These orders came after guidelines were presented by the Centers for Disease Control.

Churches were forced to find another way to reach their congregation.  Most of them accomplished that goal.

As states started re-opening, certain businesses that had previously been closed opened with certain restrictions. After seeing the list of businesses that could open, the discussion about why churches could not resume normal services became the latest topic to fight about.

The CDC laid out the guidelines for churches to follow.  The original guideline read, ‘engaging in the free exercise of religion is specifically listed as a reason someone may leave home, provided the religious gatherings are kept to 10 or fewer people in keeping with CDC guidelines for the protection of public health.”  The numbers allowed varied from state to state.

Some states governors’ orders were more restrictive than others. 22 states followed this guideline and limited the number of people and 15 states allowed religious gatherings with no limits on sizes.

A recent survey showed that 93 percent of regular church attendees agreed with the orders and obeyed them. But it is that 7 percent who get the attention.

Pumping their fists and claiming the orders violate their constitutional rights, they were the faces on the news.

One legal scholar said every constitutional right has limits and the right to religious freedom does not mean you can harm your neighbors.

Even the strongest protection of religious practices allows for some restrictions. Stopping a pandemic is a clear government interest as churches have been identified as hot spots for the spread of the virus. Preventing mass infections and death qualify as necessary restrictions.  As one judge ruled, “without life, there can be no liberty.”

Some protested they were not going to let Satan win and claimed God will protect them from the coronavirus and defied orders to limit gatherings.

One woman leaving a church gathering told reporters she was not concerned about getting the virus because she was ‘covered in the blood of Christ.’

A Chicago church held services where no masks were required, six feet of social distancing was optional, and hugs and any other physical touch were encouraged.  The pastor said his congregation believes in the healing power of touch.

Another pastor challenged his church by saying, “I will take the risk, if you will.”

These people call themselves Christian patriots.  But, are they?

As people defy the orders and scream about power and seek publicity for their actions, it sends the wrong message to the world.  It says Christians believe they deserve special treatment.

When Christians claim they are immune to sickness and put their agenda above the safety of their neighbors, it weakens our message. There is nothing Christian about putting families’ lives at risk.

Because of the animosity from both sides of this issue, it was inevitable that something bad would happen.  One church in Mississippi was burned down after defying the states’ order by holding a Bible Study class.

The call to love our fellow man as ourselves is a mandate from God.

The problem with the original orders was the use of the word, ‘essential.’   Churches are, always have been and always will be essential.  We do not need political pandering to convince anyone.

Churches remain crucial to the lives of many people but gathering without a plan could be deadly. Having plans in place to help prevent the spread of the virus is just plain smart.

Several outbreaks in recent days have been attributed to churches in Georgia, Texas and Arkansas.

The CDC issued guidelines for churches who wish to re-open last Friday.

A Georgia pastor had this advice.  He said to start with prayer, determine the mindset of the congregation, the health status of the community and go from there.

We should give him an Amen.

Anita McGill is a former publisher of The Sentinel. She can be reached by email at anitamcgill99@gmail.com.

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