The Coronavirus pandemic is defining for the globe what’s “essential” and what things we really can’t do without, even though we might not need them for survival.
Attempting to slow the spread of the virus, authorities in many places are determining what shops and services can remain open. They’re also restricting citizens from leaving their homes. Stay-at-home orders or guidance are affecting more than one-fifth of the world’s population. This has left many contemplating an existential question: What, really, is essential?
Several states where marijuana is legal, such as California and Washington, deemed pot shops and workers in the market’s supply chain essential. For some, the emphasis is on medicinal uses, not enabling cooped-up people to get stoned. “Cannabis is a safe and effective treatment that millions of Americans rely on to maintain productive daily lives while suffering from diseases and ailments,” Erik Altieri, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said in an email.
In Europe, the current epicenter of the pandemic, Italy and France has the most stringent rules, with only essential businesses such as food shops and pharmacies remaining open. The manufacturing sector was ordered shut down on Thursday, though factories that make needed products like medical supplies will continue to operate after making conditions safer for employees. In France, shops specializing in pastry, wine and cheese have been declared essential businesses.
Coming back across the pond, a constitutional v. health concerns dilemma has developed. This was recently shown in a recent story coming out of Florida. A Florida megachurch pastor who made national headlines for holding crowded services Sunday has been arrested Monday afternoon for defying government orders amid the Coronavirus pandemic. Rodney Howard-Browne, the pastor of The River at Tampa Bay Church, argued his congregation was essential, on par with Walmart. However, law enforcement officials, who said they tried to reason with him, disagreed, charging him with “unlawful assembly” and “violation of public health emergency order,” Fox 29 reported. Evidently, God is a non-essential.
Pope Francis, who reversed a decision to close the churches of Rome, “Drastic measures are not always good,” Francis said. He urged pastors to “not leave the holy, faithful people of God alone … so that the people of God will feel accompanied by their pastors, comforted by the Word of God, by the sacraments, and by prayer.” The Pope’s secretary warned that if the Church abandons the people in this crisis, the people will abandon it.
Will religious leaders that do not open the churches appear to value the earthly above God? Perhaps there is a middle ground. Like grocery stores, churches could be kept open in a manner consistent with public health via Internet services or social-distancing in smaller groups. In any case, America has had a long history of placing religious institutions in a special position protected by our law and constitution. At the same time, it is not the first time America has suspended certain civil-liberties during times of emergencies. Here are some examples of this.
Even here at Right Wire Report, we have various opinions on whether constitutionally the government has the power to close churches over this Coronavirses pandemic. Give us your thoughts in the following poll or in the comment section of this article.
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Coronavirus has shown what we value. In Pennsylvania, beer distributors are deemed essential. In San Francisco and New York, cannabis dispensaries are. God? Not so much.