Today, the governor of Washington State issued a proclamation instituting the most severe restrictions on civil and religious liberties yet seen.
Apparently this is Governor Inslee’s solution to the COVID-19 pandemic:
“Religious services will be limited to 25% indoor capacity or 200 people, whichever is less, and choirs, bands or ensembles are prohibited from performing.”
Lumped in with draconian shutdowns of entire industries (indoor dining, gyms, etc.) and an unprecedented restriction on private social gatherings, this latest emboldened tyranny is perhaps what we should have expected as a side-effect of the recent election.
In case you didn’t get it from the title, I consider this proclamation to be illegal and evil (however it was intentioned) in several ways:
- The Constitution of the United States protects Americans’ right to freely exercise our religion (1st Amendment). States are not permitted to make laws which abridge the rights and privileges of U.S. citizens. (Fourteenth Amendment) Taken together, the Governor’s attempt to restrict or prohibit the free exercise of religion (specifically gathering together as a complete body and singing praise to God) is an egregious overstep of his authority and must be resisted by all patriots.
- The Bible clearly calls upon Christians to assemble together (Hebrews 10:25). Restrictions of gatherings to 25% of the congregation seem to fly in the face of that commandment, and as such, must be courageously resisted as Peter and John resisted the religious leaders’ command to stop teaching about Jesus. (Acts 5:28-29). We must, as Peter says, obey God rather than man.
- Singing praise to God is a central part of the practice of the Christian faith, and is commanded many times in Scripture. Paul specifically mentions this in his letter to the Ephesian church, chapter 5, verse 19:
… addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,
Other references commanding the godly to sing, both individually and corporately include Psalm 89:1, Psalm 132:9, Psalm 104:33, Isaiah 42:10, Acts 16:25, Colossians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 14:15.
Some people point to Romans 13, and argue that Christians should submit to the ruling authorities (and to these COVID-19 restrictions). Again, at the risk of beating a dead horse, I have two answers to that:
- The law of the Constitution supersedes, by definition, the law of a Governor of a State (or even an executive order from the President). In Paul’s day, it was appropriate and legal to appeal to the Emperor (as he in fact did). (Acts 25:11)
- When the law of man conflicts with the Word of God, there is one clear winner: we choose to obey God.
Christians may suffer for this. Peter and John were beaten by the Sanhedrin, and we should expect to be reviled in public opinion, reported by our own congregants, fined, jailed, and deprived of property at the very least. Brothers and sisters in Christ are being kidnapped, beaten, enslaved and even beheaded for allegiance to Christ — why should we get better treatment? God promises to be with us through the suffering, but He does not promise to save us from earthly discomfort or even death. As Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego famously said in Daniel 3:
If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
We are living in unprecedented times, which are likely to purify and refine the Church in the United States. We need to be careful not to become distracted by the erosion or even the eradication of our civil liberties — after all, God is still on His throne even if the Constitution is amended to suspend religious liberty altogether. At the same time, it is irresponsible and ungrateful to give away these hard-won liberties without a fight. For hundreds of years, the United States has been a bastion of religious freedom in which the Church has flourished and spread, and we should use every legal defense to hold back the darkness as long as possible.
Christians should continue the work of discipling each other and sharing the gospel to the lost. We must do so without fear of man, including the Governor of Washington and those who agree with him. If we are deemed worthy to suffer for it, then we should be thankful, as were Peter and John. Of course, we may end up singing in jail, as did Paul and Silas.
If you are a Christian, but are inclined to side with the authors of these lockdown laws, be warned. It is time for you to take a stand. There are only two sides — choose wisely. As Emmett said, in the movie “Silverado”: “It’s going to get mean.” The enemies of God are emboldened and ruthless in their opposition to Him — don’t pitch your tent near them.
Here are the relevant portions of the U.S. Constitution, specifically the first and fourteenth amendments:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.