Religious liberty under attack: Faith-based organizations targeted by restrictions, threats and lawsuits.
The Right to Worship
Religious groups in California, Louisiana, Virginia, Kansas, Minnesota and others are suing government over orders to close houses of worship as a First Amendment violation. Several churches in Kentucky sued the governor over orders to close, and on May 9 a federal judge reversed that order. The issue is public safety vs. First Amendment rights to worship without government interference, and to “peaceably assemble.”
Can government interfere in how religious schools hire and fire employees? Two Catholic school teachers are suing because they were discharged. The case seems to hinge on whether they are viewed as ministers, exempt from normal government regulations on employment, or as non-ministerial employees for whom those regulations may apply. Complicating the cases are the fact that one teacher was discharged after she disclosed she had cancer, and the principal who fired her was later charged with embezzlement.
And in another case, the California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) in 2014 issued letters to seven health insurers directing them that, effective immediately, their insurance plans had to include coverage for legal abortion. Skyline Wesleyan Church filed suit alleging that its right to the free exercise of religion required approval of a health plan with abortion restrictions. A district court dismissed that case, but the 9th Circuit reversed the dismissal, saying the Church can sue over the abortion mandate
The Christian Post reported that some 300 interfaith leaders sent a letter urging the Senate Judiciary Committee to protect faith organizations from “a swarm of lawsuits blaming houses of worship and religious ministries for any person who attended a religious gathering or received food or shelter from a charity or ministry and subsequently contracted COVID-19.”
Wisconsin Supreme Court Strikes down Stay-at-Home Order
Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order was thrown out by a conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court. The order lifted all restrictions except those on schools, which are to remain closed until fall.
Church Sues Zoom for Porno Intrusion
With stay-at-home orders in force, many religious congregations are meeting online using video meeting applications such as Zoom. But hackers can intrude on services in something called “zoom bombing.” When a bible study session was hacked by someone who showed pornography, Saint Paulus Lutheran Church of San Francisco, sued Zoom. The company condemned the intrusion and said the perpetrator had been identified and authorities notified. In addition, the company posted ways to keep out uninvited guests.
Tech-Savvy Faiths Attract New Members
People curious about other faiths and houses of worship can now often gather online for real-time Zoom sessions or watch videos of services, and those faiths embracing video technology are gaining followers. Lockdowns have increased participation, according to some religious leaders.
Christian Station in Israel Creates Controversy
Israel is threatening to take a Christian cable TV channel off the air, as it is illegal to proselytize to those under 18 years of age without parental consent, and many appear to fear conversion as eroding Jewish majority status in the country. “We won’t allow any missionary channel to operate in the state of Israel,” said Israeli Communications Minister David Amsalem. “Not at any time and not under any circumstances,” A later development may result in silencing the channel, as authorities say the channel was said to preach to Christians within Israel, but it’s real purpose is to convert Jews.