I just had to take a blogger to task for condemning religious leaders who declined to suspend services. It went like this:
Really? The First Amendment says that Congress can’t interfere with religion and the Fourteenth Amendment extended the Bill of Rights to all state and local governments. The only exception recognized by the Constitution is the suspension of habeas corpus in times of war. So it stands that no branch of government can shut down places of worship. The very idea of creating and carving out exceptions for national emergencies creates a precedent whereby the government could outlaw the practice of religion in the name of civil order. And this of course presages the very idea of state-regulated religion as suggested in the Book of Revelation. Ultimately we are also Americans and pastors are essentially chief executive officers of not-for-profit corporations. Parishioners are not employees; they are more like shareholders. If anything the parishioners should elect to attend or not to attend; I don’t see how it it is up to a cleric to shut down a house of worship. Aside from this, one must differentiate between the practice of faith and the exercise of faith. While attending servuces is first a practice of faith, attending services in the face of danger and trusting in God’s omnipotence is the exercise of faith. Rightly or wrongly who are we to dictate how another should or should not exercise faith? In that same line I’m not going to sit next to a person who is handling rattlesnakes. That’s just ridiculous and one could argue is testing the Lord. By the same token I probably would not sit next to a person who is hacking up a lung. Yet if that person asks for prayer I would lay my hands on that person and pray for him or her. All the same I don’t see how this is much different than leprosy–a comprable social stigma of former days. Lepers should in the name of brotherly love avoid conduct which could spread the pestilence and disease to their neighbors. So I would say the same is true of people today who are ill or who believe that they might be ill. So the onus should be upon the individual to act in a manner that treats his or her neighbor with love, compassion, and charity. While it is the duty of pastors and preacher to teach, to demonstrate, and to lead by example, this duty cuts both ways and subordinating faith to fear is 100% contrary to scripture.