In the middle of a global pandemic, you'd think health officials would have better things to do than mask checks at empty churches. Well, think again, says Rev. Dr. Dennis Jackman. It didn't matter that he was working in his office alone. The last time he answered the door of the church without his face covered, it almost cost him $5,000. Do it again, the government told him, and they'd shut down his church -- indefinitely.
"I wasn't expecting anyone," Pastor Jackman explained. If anything, he thought it might be someone who needed help from the food pantry. Instead, it was someone with the health department following up on a tip from the virus hotline. Testily, the man told Jackman to step back six feet and then chastised him for not wearing a mask. Dutifully, Jackman went back to his office and fetched one. The church had been reported, he was told when he got back, by an anonymous source. To this day, Jackman shook his head, he has no idea what the actual complaint was. They have in-person services, yes. But they respect Maryland's coronavirus guidelines -- encouraging distancing and sanitizing. Even in 32 degree weather, he said on "Washington Watch," he's still held their 9:00 a.m. services outside so people can come in their cars and listen.
Even that wasn't good enough for Maryland's despots, who told Jackman that they'd be back -- and for any violations, there'd be consequences. "It's almost like we're in Nazi Germany in 1938," the pastor said, "where you have anonymous people making anonymous charges." In fact, it's gotten so bad that the county is hiring more people to follow up on the reports. And it's not just Maryland that's started a government-funded snitch line. There are plenty of other states turning neighbors into government informants with absolutely no way to screen phony or politically-motivated tattling.
Imagine what it'll be like under Joe Biden, who just announced that he wants a 100-day mask mandate on government property the minute he's sworn into office! "Just 100 [days]," the Democrat told CNN. "Not forever." And what if Americans violate that order? Will there be jail time? Citations? Thousands of dollars in fines? For a man who keeps saying he'll "follow the science," NRO's Jim Geraghty points out, it's incredible that they'd impose a nationwide mandate with a completely arbitrary end date. "It's amazing how 'the science' decided that the date masks will no longer be needed perfectly aligns with his symbolic 100th day in office. What a coincidence!"
But then, this was never about the science. This is about the government exercising unconstitutional power over a country of free people. And frankly, while there are maybe some well-intentioned mask zealots who are not considering the unintended consequences of these draconian policies, there are others who are not well-intentioned. For them this is about driving a Marxist agenda -- and seizing a moment of international panic to do it. Most people are unsuspecting enough to go along with it. They trust that what liberals are advocating will keep them safe. They don't understand the long-term consequences of these decisions, which will ultimately destroy individual and religious liberties.
There's a Bill of Rights, author Larry Taunton reminded listeners on Washington Watch this week, that says we have the right to assemble. We have the right to worship. These overbearing rules and tattle-tale hotlines are the stuff of totalitarian regimes. It creates a society, Larry explained, where people live in fear -- fear of saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing. People start to feel overwhelmed by the "omnipresence of government," he points out. "But another it does is divides people... and protect[s] the government from the people." This is exactly what they did in the Soviet Union.
Fortunately, Donald Trump gave Americans three incredibly powerful weapons to fight this agenda -- and they're all sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court. Just this week, the justices followed up their New York City ruling with another smackdown of one-sided COVID restrictions -- this time in California. Like Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.), Governor Gavin Newsom (D) got a wake-up call about the administration's attack on local churches. Up until that point, he'd banned "all in-person worship for 99.1 percent of Californians," Liberty Counsel attorneys argued, despite the fact that "warehouses, big box centers, shopping malls, liquors stores, family entertainment... gyms, fitness centers, and museums" have no limits. Thursday's order overturns the decisions against California churches and tells judges to take another look in light of the case in Brooklyn.
"This is the second big win for religious adherents from the Supreme Court since Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the bench," FRC legal expert Katherine Beck Johnson celebrated. "The coronavirus has tested the strength of our Constitution, and it's refreshing to see the Supreme Court recognize the importance of the First Amendment. The Free Exercise Clause is a fundamental right that must be treated equally to other rights -- even in, and especially during, trying times."
We -- not the government, not liberal leaders, not even public health officials -- should be the custodians of our well-being. Life has risks, and we need to take precautions, but that's no excuse to intimidate people and shut down churches. If 150 people can keep packing out planes, elbow to elbow for hours, then there's no reason we can't sit in a pew on Sunday morning. Religious liberty is a fundamental freedom. Flying on a plane isn't.
Listen to the entire program here.