COVID-19 as a case study: What are the best arguments in favor of regulation of religious expression?

In this blog post I will use the medium of the COVID-19 outbreak to orchestrate the arguments in favor of regulations on religion. I will explain each argument and their merits. This does not mean I agree with them, however.

The first argument is illustrated well by Jonathan Turley a law professor at George Washington University. His main argument is that covid “did not prevent worship in other forms. He also discussed why some restrictions on religious services could not be applied to other activities, like grocery shopping.”

“The objection from these pastors is not frivolous as there is a substantial curtailment in an expression of faith. But this is not an effort to establish a favored state church. It is content neutral on particular faiths impacted by the limitation on crowd size. Their views are not frivolous, but they are still reckless. Free exercise of religion does not allow dangerous acts, even if they are part of a demonstration of faith. A pastor should not be able to disregard public health limits on congregation size to fight a pandemic threat any more than he can disregard a fire safety threat. The real issue here may be more about state law. … [Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt] notes that the orders do not stop grocery shopping and other gatherings. But religious services can be supplied online, while grocery shopping for most people continues to take actual visits to the stores.”

I tend to think that this same thought process still applies but, given the need to for instance physically receive the body of Christ in the Catholic faith. This cannot always be the case. But, as a case study the COVID-19 epidemic does demonstrate how certain forms of religious services being mitigated is not only possible but even has some possible benefits.

Source- Why the government can shut down church gatherings during pandemic

Another argument that furthers this point is that of David Kinnaman a religious organization researcher. He argues that the role of social media has played a parallel role to that of religious interaction today.

As he says “Changing in-church services to digital “have altered the ‘fundamental relationship that many young adults have with their churches. We’re hearing about worship-shifting, as people use all the tech in their homes to fit services into their own schedules — just like everything else they watch on all those screens. This is another way people are using social media to renegotiate the role the church plays in the lives of their families.”

Source- How will churches adapt to survive during COVID?

In the end, I believe the religious services being served over the medium of the world wide web is a fair substitute in circumstance as COVID-19. It is also noteworthy the angle that social media presents to the conversation. While it cannot be understated how impactful the faith of the everyday individual is. In certain cases the argument towards some religious restrictions may hold weight.

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