Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, on the heels of Attorney General William P. Barr’s order to U.S. attorneys to root out COVID-19-tied religious discrimination at the state level — and on the heels of the horrible U.S. Supreme Court decision, swung by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., that in essence lets California continue to discriminate against churches — petitioned the Justice Department to launch a civil rights investigation into governors who use the coronavirus as a lynchpin to keep worshippers home. In short, he wants to know: How come Black Lives Matter can fill the streets, but church-goers have to stay home?
Good question. Very good question. And it’s good the good senator is taking a stand for religious freedom, the bedrock of America.
Now where’s his cavalry? This is a matter that should be seized upon by all Republicans on Capitol Hill, in both House and Senate, and run with full steam ahead vigor through the states.
If Justice Roberts wants to use the Supreme Court to basically tell Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in California that it’s OK to limit head counts at church gatherings, while still allowing other businesses and facilities to have as many people as can socially distance, or as many people as can fill the aisles, or as many people as can fill the parking lot — because, you see, the state knows best how to best protect its people — well then, it’s time for the legislative branch to step in, step up and say (pardon the bluntness) shut the freak up. In America, religious liberties are purtney near sacrosanct.
Or, as Barr said way back in April: “The Constitution isn’t suspended” for COVID-19.
That’s when he told his 94 U.S. attorneys to “be on the lookout for state and local directives that could be violating the constitutional rights and civil liberties of individual citizens.”
Newsom, along with far too many other far-left governors, have done just that — violated civil liberties of citizens, particularly of Christian, church-going citizens, by issuing executive orders that close church doors, limit the sizes of church congregations and outright discriminate against churches.
Hawley says: Enough.
“In the past few weeks, state officials across the country have blatantly violated the free exercise and free speech rights of religious Americans … by treating religious gatherings and speech differently than the speech and mass gatherings of protests,” he wrote in his letter to Barr. “I urge you to launch a full civil rights investigation.”
If Black Lives Matter can fill the streets of New York City, minus the social distancing — why can’t churches fill their pews?
If Antifa thugs can storm troop the streets of Washington, D.C., of Chicago, of other cities, and congregate like packed sardines as they toss bricks into store windows and loot merchandise for all to see — why can’t church congregants similarly congregate?
“Now, after two weeks of nationwide protests, no uncertainty remains. Many jurisdictions are imposing extraordinarily strict caps on religious gatherings — such as restricting religious gatherings to 10 or fewer people — even as those jurisdictions allow thousands of people to gather closely in protests,” Hawley wrote. “Stats cannot allow one but prohibit the other.”
Indeed once again.
And, as Hawley points out, this discrimination isn’t just of religious in nature. It also violates free speech rights.
“Because of coronavirus, religious individuals already have been unable to fully celebrate important religious days — Passover, Easter, Ramadan, Pentecost, among others,” he wrote. “They should not have to undergo the continued indignity of state officials violating their free exercise and free speech rights as well,” Hawley finished. “I am grateful for your involvement so far on this issue … I urge you to remain engaged, open a full civil rights investigation, and bring whatever lawsuits are necessary to secure the First Amendment rights of all Americans.”
And ditto, too, from every American church-goer, follower of Christ, religious worshipper and faith leader of the nation.
Let’s get the civil suit party started.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @ckchumley. Listen to her podcast “Bold and Blunt” by clicking HERE. And never miss her column; subscribe to her newsletter by clicking HERE.