Religious freedom is among the most fundamental American values. I believe this is a statement that is nearly unanimously accepted by all citizens.
In the early beginnings of our great nation, it was recognized by the founders that faith was an essential part of the prospective success of our society. This bedrock of our nation rests on Judeo-Christian values.
The Declaration of Independence refers to the reason for separation from the British deriving from the “Laws of Nature, and Nature’s God entitle” the people. The words “In God We Trust” is the official motto of the United States.
God is intrinsic to who we are as a nation and our health and wellbeing. God is medicine for our souls. Freedom also is derived from God, not from man.
So, when arguments are developed to reduce or limit these freedoms, beware.
Proposition 3 is a well-intended and necessary guard against those who would limit freedom of assembly in our houses of worship. In times of crisis, the clergy, rabbi’s, boards and religious institutions and their congregations rightly decide where and when to meet after evaluating all the information available to them. This is the way it has always been. Flexibility in dealing with emergencies is the preferred option. Why would anyone want to outsource such vital decisions relating to how and in what manner we may worship to politicians of all stripes who do not share our values?
Not only are churches and synagogues houses of worship, but these organizations provide important services during emergencies and are safe houses for the needy and less fortunate among us.
With respect to the current pandemic, there are numerous examples of politicians showing poor judgment or imposing inconsistent policies on the general public.
In New York, politicians attempted to limit religious gatherings in response to the pandemic. These limitations were ultimately blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court and were deemed unconstitutional.
However, well intended, those who recommend voting against Proposition 3 are in error in many of their arguments. Safety from the pandemic is largely an individual responsibility. Each of us has a freedom to choose what we do, how we associate and with whom. This does not diminish the care and concern for those who are most at risk and we collectively grieve for the lost lives and sickness in this grave time. But at-risk populations need to be aware of their status and act accordingly.
Of course, there is a role of government and in cases of extreme emergency, the Governor retains broad emergency power under the Texas Disaster Act of 1975. Nothing in Proposition 3 would change that. In addition, local leaders make recommendations to the community including religious institutions concerning safety in time of flood, fire and other crisis. These recommendations are largely followed by the community. Why not trust our common sense and shared commitment?
In Houston, we experienced an almost daily barrage of dire warnings from our current county judge, Lina Hidalgo. High threat levels were followed by county and city mandates which were often in opposition to declarations from elected state leaders. Pronouncements by these politicians regarding health safety were either wrong or woefully out of date. Yet we survived, lived our lives, and worshipped as we chose, not in accordance with some blanket declaration by an elected official. Worship is the heart of the black community. It is my natural and God given right to preach and provide comfort to my brothers and sisters when and how I choose. This is a right I shall not relinquish.
Let us remember the words of Apostle Paul to the Romans that they do not have the Law above God…. God judge them for their evil is that God’s law is written on their hearts so that their consciences attest to what is right and what is wrong in their behavior….
“For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside.
“Purge the evil person from among you” when one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the Saints? Or do you not know that the Saints will judge the World? And if the World is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge Angels? How much more, then, matters to this life.”
Romans 2:14 -15
So, lets get beyond all this handwringing and fear mongering. I categorically reject the notion voting for Proposition 3 will be a “license to bring harm to our friends, neighbors and loved ones” and you should too.