- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 26, 2020

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, in a declaration of “war” against coronavirus, ordered the closure of schools, the closure of nonessential businesses, the closure of restaurants’ in-dining sections — and the effective closure of churches to in-house worshippers.

That’s brazenness at its worst.

In America, rights don’t come from government. They come from God. And nothing says God-given right in America like the right to freely worship — the right to freely associate with fellow worshippers in a designated place of, well, worship.

Even in times of national health concerns.

It’s one thing for a governor to recommend a best-practice guide during times of crises.

It’s another thing entirely for a governor — a duly elected public servant tasked with carrying out the provisions of both U.S. and state constitutions — to face off against the church and demand compliance with the government.

That’s not just un-American.

That’s a court challenge waiting to explode.

At the very least, it’s a moment in time for churches to stand strong and send in some strongly worded statements of disapproval.

That it comes from the same guy who said back in January 2019 that a doctor and mother could decide if a just-born baby had the right to continue living or not only makes the matter all the more egregious.

Northam’s executive order to Virginians, issued earlier this week, doesn’t explicitly mention churches and doesn’t explicitly order the closure of churches. But in a Frequently Asked Questions document posted at the official Governor of Virginia website, Northam makes clear: Church attendance, through April 23, is a no-no.

“What about religious services? Can I still go to my church, synagogue, or mosque?” the pertinent question reads.

And the answer: “Virginians are strongly encouraged to seek alternative means of attending religious services, such as virtually or via ‘drive-through’ worship. Places of worship that do conduct in-person services must limit gatherings to 10 people, to comply with the statewide 10-person ban.”

The actual executive order “carries the force of law,” as The Virginian-Pilot noted.

Meaning: “Violations … shall be a Class 1 misdemeanor,” the order itself states.

Who gave Northam the right to declare, unilaterally, without constituent OK, absent legislative approval, via a pronouncement, an executive order — who gave him the right to order church worshippers to stay home?

Christians, Muslims, Jews ought to be outraged.

Northam has no authority on this.

He’s a governor — not God — in a land of people who take their rights from God, not government.

If Northam wants churchgoers to stay home for medical reasons, his best bet is to ask, politely and humbly. He has absolutely no authority to demand. And some churches better step forward now and make that clear.

• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com 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.

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