General Counsel Mike Berry of First Liberty Institute – an organization that assists in legal battles over religious freedom – told Church Militant, “Attorney General Barr’s strong statement of support for religious liberty, even during these unique circumstances, makes clear that our constitutional rights cannot be suspended by a pandemic.
Barstated that “government may not impose special restrictions on religous activity that do not also apply to similar nonreligious activity.”
He elaborated: “If a government allows movie theaters, restaurants, concert halls and other comparable places of assembly to remain open and unrestricted, it may not order houses of worship to close, limity their congregation size or otherwise impede religious gatherings”
Barr made clear the necessity of President Trump’s guidelines, which call on “all Americans to do their part to slow the spread of a dangerous and highly contagious virus. Those measures are important because the virus is transmitted so easily from person to person, and because it all too often has life-threatening consequences for its victims, it has the potential to overwhelm health care systems when it surges.”
The First Amendment and federal statutory law prohibit discrimation against religious institutions and religious believers.
“Even in times of emergency, he emphasized, when reasonable and temporary restrictions are placed on rights, the First Amendment and federal statutory law prohibit discrimination against religious institutions and religious believers.”
“There is no pandemic exception … to the fundamental liberties the Constitution safeguards,” the DOJ said. Indeed, individual rights secured by the Constitution do not disappear during a public health crisis.”
“America needs its churches to provide the calm, comfort and care they uniquely provide to communities across the country.” Barr said at the end of his statement.
“And the government needs churches and other houses of worship to do just that during the pandemic.”