So that was a story with three camps: (1) The 99% of religious leaders who cooperated and took worship online (that wasnt big news), (2) the small number of preachers who rebelled (big story in national media) and (3) government leaders who just wanted to do the right thing and keep people alive.
However, things got more complex during the Easter weekend (for Western churches) and thats what Crossroads host Todd Wilken and I discussed during this weeks podcast (click here to tune that in).
As it turned out, there were FIVE CAMPS in this First Amendment drama and the two that made news seemed to be off the radar of most journalists.
But not all. As Julia Duin noted in a post early last week (Enforcement overkill? Louisville newspaper tries to document the war on Easter), the Courier-Journal team managed, with a few small holes, to cover the mess created by different legal guidelines established by Kentuckys governor and the mayor of Louisville.
Thats where drive-in worship stories emerged as the important legal wrinkle that made an already complex subject even harder to get straight.
Those five camps? They are (1) the 99% of religious leaders who cooperated and took worship online, (2) some religious leaders who (think drive-in worship or drive-thru confessions) who tried to create activities that followed social-distancing standards, (3) a few preachers who rebelled, period, (4) lots of government leaders who established logical laws and tried to be consistent with sacred and secular activities and (5) some politicians who seemed to think drive-in religious events were more dangerous than their secular counterparts.
Say what? Look at the Louisville laws, for example. Why were drive-in worship services with, oh, 100 cars containing people in a big space more dangerous than businesses and food pantry efforts that produced, well, several hundred cars in a parking lot?
Why was if OK for people in cars to bunch up at a drive-thru liquor establishment, but they couldnt part near each other at a church service?
Meanwhile, you had people doing essential things at grocery stores and big-box discount stores that jammed parking lots and then had people (masks and gloves optional) getting out of their cars and going inside. Why was a drive-thru confessional with the priest 10-plus feet away from someone in a car more dangerous than that?
The same clash was happening in a few other places. The Associated Press did a solid piece about what was happening in Mississippi: Justice Department takes churchs side in 1st Amendment suit. Heres the start of that:
WASHINGTON (AP) The Justice Department took the rare step of weighing in on the side of a Mississippi Christian church where local officials had tried to stop Holy Week services broadcast to congregants sitting in their cars in the parking lot.
As the coronavirus pandemic spread, leaders at Temple Baptist Church in Greenville began holdingdrive-in servicesfor their congregation on a short-wave radio frequency from inside an empty church save for the preacher.
Arthur Scott, the 82-year-old pastor, said Tuesday that it was a good compromise for his group, a wonderful way to preach the gospel and still its like they are there, but you cant go out and see them, but you know theyre there.
The federal involvement adds to the rising tension over reconciling religious freedom with public health restrictions designed to fightthe pandemic, disputes that are playing out along the same partisan lines that mark the nations overall divide.
Greenville city leaders argue the services violate stay-at-home orders and could have put peoples lives in jeopardy. Church officials believe they have been singled out for their religion, especially after eight police officers were sent last week to ticket the faithful, $500 apiece, for attending services, including the pastors wife.
This detail was really interesting:
Attorney Ryan Tucker of the Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents the church, says theres a Sonic Drive-In restaurant about 200 yards (180 meters) from the church where patrons are still allowed to roll down their windows and talk.
Ah, but some of those drive-in worshipers might roll down their car windows and raise their hands, singing praises to God. Thats way more dangerous than a drive-thru liquor window or fast-food takeout services. Right?
Heres one more look at the legal nature of this conflict:
The Justice Department argued in the filing that the city appeared to be targeting religious conduct by singling churches out as the only essential service (as designated by the state of Mississippi) that may not operate despite following all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state recommendations regarding social distancing.
The facts alleged in the complaint strongly suggest that the citys actions target religious conduct, the filing says. If proven, these facts establish a free exercise violation unless the city demonstrates that its actions are neutral and apply generally to nonreligious and religious institutions or satisfies the demanding strict scrutiny standard.
In other words, this is kind of like an equal access laws case. You cant regulate religious activities MORE than you do secular activities with similar methods and circumstances. Government officials cant rule that religion is uniquely dangerous.
Who would have thought wed see First Amendment battles about drive-ins!
Theres much more in the podcast. Please give it a listen and pass it on.
This story isnt over yet, I am sure.
- First Amendment on the street | Opinion | dailyitem.com - Sunbury Daily Item - June 30th, 2020
- Taking a cellphone video of police? Theres a First Amendment for that - Seattle Times - June 30th, 2020
- First Amendment Bars California from Requiring a Proposition 65 Glyphosate Warning - JD Supra - June 30th, 2020
- Read the First Amendment | Letters To The Editor - The Central Virginian - June 30th, 2020
- First Amendment right to protest is in jeopardy in Jacksonville - The Florida Times-Union - June 30th, 2020
- Pence says First Amendment is why Trump campaign held Tulsa rally despite local health officials' warnings - Yahoo News - June 30th, 2020
- Supreme Court hands win to religious schools | TheHill - The Hill - June 30th, 2020
- Letter to the Editor: Remember and Defend the First Amendment - Dana Point Times - June 20th, 2020
- Another look at the First Amendment | Opinion - Franklin News Post - June 20th, 2020
- Death threats protected by First Amendment, attorney says - Alpena News - June 20th, 2020
- Really Pathetic: First Amendment Expert Torches DOJ Efforts to Stop John Bolton Book - Law & Crime - June 20th, 2020
- The First Amendment protects attorneys from compelled speech | TheHill - The Hill - June 17th, 2020
- Protesters are protected by the First Amendment and will not be cited any violations if they remain peaceful - WATN - Local 24 - June 17th, 2020
- Dear Journal: That's some amendment, that First Amendment; let's use it - The Daily World - June 17th, 2020
- Barr Threatens Suit To Stop Boltons Book Because The First Amendment Is, Like, More Of A Suggestion Really - Above the Law - June 17th, 2020
- NASCAR tossed out First Amendment and more letters to the editors - Chattanooga Times Free Press - June 17th, 2020
- Snap's decision to restrict Trump is within its First Amendment rights, CEO says - CNBC - June 17th, 2020
- First Amendment rights? Only for the Left - Must Read Alaska - June 17th, 2020
- "Vocational Training Is Speech Protected by the First Amendment" - Reason - June 17th, 2020
- A North Carolina professor who sparked outrage with his tweets still has his job. Why? It's called the First Amendment. - USA TODAY - June 17th, 2020
- Opinion: 1st Amendment rights apparently only apply to the left - Juneau Empire - June 17th, 2020
- If you're planning to take part in protests, know your rights. Read this. - CNN - June 17th, 2020
- Opinion: Trump's Antifa crackdown treads on First Amendment - The Detroit News - June 17th, 2020
- First Amendment Rights and Twitter, Encryption Backdoors - Security Boulevard - June 1st, 2020
- Arrest of CNN Crew in Minneapolis a 'Violation of First Amendment' - Voice of America - June 1st, 2020
- Trump, Twitter and the First Amendment - The New York Times - June 1st, 2020
- First Amendment Group Opposes Webinars On Toll Roads - WUSF News - June 1st, 2020
- ACLU issues warning to police to protect First Amendment rights of protesters - KATC Lafayette News - June 1st, 2020
- Federal, California and Local Law Enforcement's Statement on the Death of George Floyd and Riots Says They Will Continue to Work Together to Protect... - June 1st, 2020
- First Amendment Legal Expert Floyd Abrams on Trump's Chilling Executive Order Designed to Kill Free Speech - Showbiz411 - June 1st, 2020
- DC mayor institutes curfew and urges calm after weekend of unrest - KEYT - June 1st, 2020
- Open season on the free press: Journalists targeted in attacks as U.S. protests rage - Reuters - June 1st, 2020
- RCFP condemns attacks against journalists covering protests - Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press - June 1st, 2020
- Day 3 of protests in Portland, Oregon over death of George Floyd - KGW.com - June 1st, 2020
- As Waves of Protest Surge Across America - The New York Times - June 1st, 2020
- Trump Executive Order Violates the First Amendment - SF Bay Area Indymedia - June 1st, 2020
- DC mayor urges calm after protests nearby the White House occur for second consecutive night - CNN International - June 1st, 2020
- Man with bow is expected to be charged; Salt Lake City chief decries officer who knocked down elderly man with a cane - Salt Lake Tribune - June 1st, 2020
- Trump Executive Order Misreads Key Law Promoting Free Expression Online and Violates the First Amendment - EFF - May 29th, 2020
- Content Moderation, Section 230, and The First Amendment - AAF - American Action Forum - May 29th, 2020
- Times Union takes First Amendment and Journalist of the Year, 11 other awards in statewide contest - Times Union - May 29th, 2020
- First Amendment May Protect Use of Trademarks As Artistic Expression - JD Supra - May 29th, 2020
- Strictly Legal: Is Fox News entitled to First Amendment protection? - The Cincinnati Enquirer - May 29th, 2020
- Facebook Keeps Touting The First Amendment To Justify Its Content Policies - AdExchanger - May 29th, 2020
- Trump vs. Twitter | Editorials | gjsentinel.com - The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel - May 29th, 2020
- Churches respond to COVID-19, First Amendment ruling - Morganton News Herald - May 29th, 2020
- 'The First Amendment is very clear': Sheriff's Office won't break up religious services for 'NY on PAUSE' violations - The Livingston County News - May 29th, 2020
- RCFP statement on Trump's social media executive order - Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press - May 29th, 2020
- WashU Expert: Trump attacks on Twitter betray free speech principles - Washington University in St. Louis Newsroom - May 29th, 2020
- Reexamining the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act | Morgan Lewis - Tech & Sourcing - JD Supra - May 29th, 2020
- Going to the dogs: the Ninth Circuit's erosion of trademark rights exclusive guest post - World Trademark Review - May 29th, 2020
- First Amendment Lawyer Dismisses Trumps Claim That Twitter Is Stifling Free Speech: He Doesnt Want Critics to Have a Chance to Respond - Mediaite - May 29th, 2020
- Liberals Have Rediscovered the 10th Amendment's Value During the Coronavirus Pandemic - Reason - May 29th, 2020
- Former DNC chair Donna Brazile claims 'theres no First Amendment right to lie. Her co-hosts on The Five erupt in mockery. - TheBlaze - May 29th, 2020
- Supreme Court: Clarence Thomas calls for shrinking the First Amendment - Vox.com - May 14th, 2020
- What words make up a true threat? Well, that depends - The Mercury - May 14th, 2020
- Onslow Sheriffs department will not interfere with indoor church services - Jacksonville Daily News - May 14th, 2020
- Religious freedom is under threat in the courtroom - UPI.com - May 14th, 2020
- Neuberger Demands That Carney Lift Restrictions On Worshipping Now - First State Update - May 14th, 2020
- The First Amendment To the Constitution of The United States of America - The Suburban Times - May 11th, 2020
- Exposing Russian information operations does not violate the First Amendment | TheHill - The Hill - May 11th, 2020
- The Supreme Court Could Use the First Amendment to Unleash a Robocall Nightmare - The Atlantic - May 11th, 2020
- Divorcing couples have First Amendment right to disparage each other on social media, SJC rules - The Boston Globe - May 11th, 2020
- The Price of the First Amendment "Is That We Must Put Up With a Good Deal of Rubbish" - Reason - May 11th, 2020
- Societe Generale: Availability of the first amendment to the 2020 Universal Registration Document - GlobeNewswire - May 11th, 2020
- Governors Can't Suspend the First Amendment - Daily Signal - May 11th, 2020
- Houston strip club allowed to open, but without dancers - KHOU.com - May 11th, 2020
- Lawsuit filed against Marco Island alleges first amendment violation - Marco News - May 4th, 2020
- First amendment rights should not be suppressed, even during pandemic The News Journal - The News Journal - May 4th, 2020
- Urgent Care Doctor Silenced By Youtube Says His First Amendment Rights Have Been Attacked - Sara A. Carter - May 4th, 2020
- 'ReOpen NC' Founder Has COVID-19, Says It Is Her First Amendment Right To Infect Others - Wonkette - May 4th, 2020
- A tale of two universities and one First Amendment - OneNewsNow - May 4th, 2020
- The Trump campaign's frivolous lawsuits are next-level threats to the First Amendment - Business Insider - Business Insider - April 18th, 2020
- Students Don't "Shed Their Freedom of Speech at the Schoolhouse Gate" - Reason - April 18th, 2020
- Teenager Who Shared Coronavirus Infection on Instagram Threatened With Arrest By Police, Lawsuit Says - Newsweek - April 18th, 2020
- Tea Party president says he was threatened with arrest for planning protest on Newton Green - New Jersey Herald - April 18th, 2020
- Legal expert: Trumps liberate Tweets incite insurrection and thats illegal - AlterNet - April 18th, 2020
- Lawmakers say Walz order is a violation of The First Amendment - KWLM (Willmar Radio) - April 18th, 2020
- With the public's need to know greater than ever, the D&C fights for info on outbreak - Democrat & Chronicle - April 18th, 2020
- Real-time updates: Drive-through coronavirus testing available in Grays Harbor County this weekend - KING5.com - April 18th, 2020