It Shouldn’t Require A “Theocracy” to Decide THIS Lawsuit Correctly

The Capitol Hill Baptist Church in the District of Columbia, is suing Mayor Muriel Bowser and the District government for violating its First Amendment right to worship.

Good.

“CHBC desires to gather for a physical, corporate gathering of believers in the District of Columbia on Sunday, September 27, 2020, and on subsequent Sundays, and would do so but for those actions of the Defendants that are the subject of this Complaint,” the lawsuit charges. It seems pretty clear that Bowser is applying one set of rules against religious institutions and another set of piorities entirely when it comes to activities she cares about. In March, Bowser (Is she the most unethical big city mayor in the U.S.? She’s certainly in the running, but it’s a tough field) issued an executive order prohibiting churches from meeting indoors or out because of public health concerns related to the pandemic. D.C.’s  four-stage plan would bar in-person worship gatherings until there is an “effective cure or vaccine” for the Wuhan virus, a rule that can be counted on to wound, perhaps mortally, church communities that have been built up over many decades. Right now gatherings are supposedly limited to 100 people or up to 50 percent of the building’s capacity, whichever is fewer. The 850-member Capitol Hill Baptist Church  has been meeting in a field in Virginia.

The 142-year-old congregation explains in its suit that “a weekly in-person worship gathering of the entire congregation is a religious conviction for which there is no substitute. The Church does not offer virtual worship services, it does not utilize a multi-site model, and it does not offer multiple Sunday morning worship services.”

The church’s covenant, to which all members must agree, pledges that they “will not forsake the assembling of [them]selves together,” as decreed in the Bible.  The church’s website explains,

“Since its founding in 1878, CHBC has met in-person every Sunday except for three weeks during the Spanish Flu in 1918. That changed following Mayor Bowser’s first orders concerning COVID-19 on March 11, 2020. Since that time, the members of CHBC—most of whom live in the District—have been unable to meet in person, as one congregation inside District limits (even outdoors)….CHBC has applied for multiple waivers to the policy. District officials refuse to provide CHBC with a waiver beyond 100 persons as part of a mass gathering…A church is not a building that can be opened and closed. A church is not an event to be watched. A church is a community that gathers regularly and that community should be treated fairly by the District government.”

Fairly? On June 10, the church asked for a waiver so the congregation could meet at currently abandoned RFK Stadium, which is large enough to permit social distancing. The mayor’s office didn’t respond to the request and subsequent appeals until September 15, and then issued a rejection stating that “[w]aivers for places of worship above that expanded capacity (100 attendees) are not being granted at this time.”

Strangely, as the lawsuit points out, on June 27, 2020, the District of Columbia considered a waiver to two local companies that had  wanted to set up an ad hoc drive-in movie theater at the same venue, RFK  Stadium, in order “to bring people together in D.C.” That waiver was granted.

But wait! There’s more!

The lawsuit correctly asserts that Bowser and the District “have been discriminatory in their application of the ban on large scale gatherings,” citing a June 6 appearance by the D.C. mayor before tens of thousands of George Floyd protesters, as she declared that the crowd was “wonderful to see.” The District’s Metropolitan Police Department also has closed city streets “to accommodate protests and marches of thousands to tens of thousands of people.” The mayor has also coordinated with organizers of the Commitment March on Washington, who are planning a five-hour demonstration on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial for several thousand people. Museums, restaurants, and other entertainment venues in D.C. are open. Metro services have been restored to pre-lockdown levels.

The church’s lawsuit concludes, “Creating an exception for mass protests and not other types of First Amendment activities is constitutionally forbidden content-based discrimination and thus violates CHBC’s free speech rights.”

Bingo.

Of course, this is a city that paints political slogans on the streets, but prosecutes citizens who either cover them up or paint their own.

“The First Amendment protects both mass protests and religious worship,” the lawsuit states. “But Mayor Bowser, by her own admission, has preferred the former over the latter. When asked why she celebrates mass protests while houses of worship remain closed, she responded that ‘First Amendment protests and large gatherings are not the same’ because ‘in the United States of America, people can protest.’”

They also can practice their religion. This is flagrant, arrogant double standards hostile to religion in action, and they will not stand.

Just as this lawsuit was being filed a Deranged Facebook Friend  had the chutzpah to post one of those ‘conservatives are hypocrites because they don’t embrace the progressive agenda and Jesus would have’ memes to waves of “likes” and “loves.” The argument is so simpleminded and deliberately misleading that it doesn’t warrant serious discussion, except that  the hypocrisy of a group actively hostile to religion appealing to Jesus as an authority boggles the mind.

One of the vicious talking points about to be shot at Amy Coney Barrett is that her confirmation for the Supreme Court would point the United States toward a theocracy, since she is a devout Catholic. But a competent judge who never heard of religion should be able to figure out that Mayor Bowser’s game is unconstitutional.

 

12 thoughts on “It Shouldn’t Require A “Theocracy” to Decide THIS Lawsuit Correctly

  1. One of the vicious talking points about to be shot at Amy Coney Barrett is that her confirmation for the Supreme Court would point the United States toward a theocracy, since she is a devout Catholic. But a competent judge who never heard of religion should be able to figure out that Mayor Bowser’s game is unconstitutional.

    But ‘a theocracy’ for those who are using that term refers to any point where a religious or a ‘revelation’ defined value impinges on any decision that a modern makes. If there is ‘viciousness’ it is toward the moral code and the ethical & moral demands that the practice of Christianity must naturally insist on. To send up paranoid messages about ‘theocracy’ and the ‘religious intolerant’ is to indicate hostility to Christian values. And this is one very notable, and very serious, dimension to the Culture Wars.

    Christianity and the revelation that informs it is either a *real thing* and a thing that must be paid attention to, or it is just another ‘thing’ among any number of inventions, fads and social movements.

    Here is some paragraphs from one the (many) articles now being sent up by the NYTs as they begin to explore their opposition to this woman. As of yet they have said and perhaps cannot say anything openly nasty, but that restraint will soon drop away.

    What I find ultra-interesting about this opinion-piece is that it shows itself quite free and unrestrained in making an analysis of Catholic influence and Catholic conservatism and presents it as a threat to American Liberalism. How freely this can be talked about!

    But here is the thing I notice. Just try and imagine if such an incisive conversation were broached in respect to a Jew or to Judaism in America. Take for example E Michael Jones’ title ‘The Jewish Revolutionary Spirit’ or Kevin MacDonald’ trilogy ‘The Culture of Critique’.

    Certain things are off-limits . . . and certain things are forbidden. You are free to make a ‘scathing analysis’ of Catholic Christianity and its core values, but you had better not say anything (nor think anything) that is even slightly observant of Jewish influence in our present modernity, and in what is going on in America today and what has happened to America.

    In our present almost any level of (what I refer to as) deviancy is just fine. It occurs in TV shows, Sit-Coms, in novels, in the articles in the NYTs, and is part of ‘cultural normality’.

    But the slightest mention of core Christian values will hardly be allowed. This is the intrusion of theocracy.

    Amy Coney Barrett and the New, Old Anti-Catholicism

    Critics of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee argue that pious Catholics are a problem for liberalism. They have a point

    OK so let’s give it a shot:

    Critics of Clinton’s Supreme Court nominee argue that radical Jews are a problem for conservatism. They have a point.

    My essential theme is that there are whole groups of things that are not allowed to be talked about to the detriment of intellection. They are not allowed within ‘responsible’ discourse.

    Why is that? How has this come about?
    _______________________

    “We live in an era where everything is shocking and nothing is surprising. Every major item of news over the last week or so — Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing, the inevitable Republican hustle to replace her on the eve of an extremely contentious election with the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett and the sectarian clashes over her faith — arrived as a jolt to a fragile, anxious nation. And yet all of it was long in the making — the conflict over Judge Barrett’s religion most of all.

    “In 2017, when Judge Barrett was appointed as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in Chicago, she faced a tense confirmation hearing in which Senator Dianne Feinstein infamously remarked that “the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern.” A mother of seven and a devoted Roman Catholic, Judge Barrett has continued to field concerns about whether she will be able or willing to resist the expectations of her church when it comes to cases involving relevant moral issues, and whether she will cater to the wishes of People of Praise, a mostly Catholic ecumenical organization with a distinctly traditional bent, of which she is a member.

    “The scrutiny focused on Judge Barrett’s beliefs has provoked allegations of old-fashioned anti-Catholicism on behalf of her Democratic critics. A good amount of febrile nonsense has indeed been floated regarding Judge Barrett’s spiritual life, such as the notion that People of Praise inspired Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a charge that is reminiscent of 19th-century myths of nuns kidnapping good Protestant girls to force the faith upon them.

    “But the animosity faced by Catholics in today’s America has little in common with its direct predecessor. Real sex-abuse scandals have replaced the imaginary ones circulated in the lurid tracts of yesteryear. White Catholics are no longer subject to the religious bigotry that once animated vicious rumors and, occasionally, violent attacks on Catholics and their places of learning and worship. Rather than regenerating a long-vanquished prejudice, Judge Barrett’s nomination has merely renewed attention to a fundamental conflict, centuries underway, between Catholicism and the American ethos.
    The United States is unusual among nations: We are a country founded along the contours of a philosophy. That philosophy, liberalism, is the logic that underlies our founding documents and our national ethos of individualism, self-reliance, liberty, equality and tolerance. Whether we live up to those values is another matter; they are our reason for being, and the principles that bind us together.

    “But liberalism, like any storied philosophy, has its difficulties and points of contention. While liberal societies seek to build legal and cultural climates of toleration for expression and religion (among other things), liberal theorists have long recognized that it’s risky to tolerate notions and movements that could undermine liberal democracy itself. In the case of religious tolerance, liberals have historically grappled with the matter of Roman Catholicism.

    “Roman Catholicism does not readily distinguish between public and private moral obligations. In the thought of John Locke, one of liberalism’s earliest architects, willingness to make that distinction was critical to participation in a tolerant society. “Basically,” the political theorist Jean Bethke Elshtain wrote in a 1999 essay, “Locke drew up a strong civic map with religion within one sphere and government in another. A person could be a citizen of each so long as that citizen never attempted to merge and blend the two.” Locke notably excluded Catholics from the religions meriting toleration because he suspected they could not be trusted to leave their faith in the appropriate sphere.”

  2. Early this summer we were treated to South Bay United Pentecostal vs Gavin Newsom. I was surprised at the 5-4 ruling, and most definitely disappointed in Roberts. Won’t be the first time and won’t be the last, he’s a sellout who got nominated by playing conservative when he wasn’t really one. In that ruling, the majority expressed the view that the state of California was being somewhat consistent, banning activities based on a risk assessment. The state of California was able to articulate that the basis of allowed or not was based on the density and duration of church vs. other activities that were allowed. I disagree, finding that the free exercise of religion requires more deference that this ruling allows.

    After that ruling we’ve had the George Floyd freak-out riots with the backing of the very same mayors and governors that created these rules. I’m very excited with the recent ruling in Pennsylvania County of Butler vs. Thomas Wolf. I recommend reading the opinion, it’s quite good. The biggest argument the many plaintiffs made was under a due process argument. The rulings were arbitrary, without public input, without notice of hearings, and contradictory at the whims of the state legislative branch. One cited example was a furniture store, where they were closed by Home Depot, Lowes, Walmart and Target carrying many similar items stayed open. The customer wasn’t forced to stay home and go without the “non-essential” items, they just had to go to the more crowded chain store instead.

    I hope this case and the Pennsylvania ones stand strong.

  3. Point of technicality: it is not hypocrisy for an atheist to claim that a Christian is going against the teachings of the Bible. It is hypocrisy for an atheist to use statements from the Bible as general evidence that a policy is ethical or unethical, but it is not hypocrisy to use statements from the Bible to argue that someone who professes to take the Bible seriously should do a certain thing or else incur hypocrisy.

    Also, Events DC, the organization that operates the stadium, receives taxpayer money. Are they allowed to lend the space to religious groups? I would assume they are, but I could be wrong. In theory, they don’t have to know what it would be used for, so I suspect this is indeed religious discrimination.

  4. What would be even more interesting: did the mayor approve requests from some Protestant churches but not this one, or from the RC church but not this Protestant church, or some synagogues/mosques/Hindu temples/Zen meditation centers, but not a Christian church?

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