To the Editor:
On Tuesday, Texas Proposition 3 (SJR 27) was on the ballot in Texas as a legislatively referred constitutional amendment .
It appeared as follows on the ballot (from the Texas.gov site): “The constitutional amendment to prohibit this state or a political subdivision of this state from prohibiting or limiting religious services of religious organizations.” The site continued: “This proposes barring the State of Texas or a political subdivision from enacting, adopting, or issuing a statute, order, proclamation, decision, or rule that prohibits or limits religious services. This would apply to religious services, including those conducted in churches, congregations, and places of worship, in the state by a religious organization established to support and serve the propagation of a sincerely held religious belief.”
In this cleverly worded proposition, a “no vote” would have let the state enact prohibitions; a “yes vote” would stop the state from having the right to execute such infringements. The U.S. and local governments — under the guise of protection of its citizens — have succeeded during this pandemic in doing to houses of worship that which no imprisonment, no oppression, no prior pandemic or any war has ever done in U.S. history.
They prohibited churches from holding public worship under the banner of them not being deemed “essential services”. So the state attempted to make churches obsolete, silent, and irrelevant to the suffering, isolation, pain, and spiritual needs of the people.
This was done because religious freedom was not seen as an indispensable aspect for the spiritual, moral, and emotional welfare of the people during COVID19; also because some churches took no precautions.
The makeshift bands that performed in front of churches; the many church-sponsored food pantries for citizens; and worship services on TV became the norm in worshipping communities.
The spiritual vacuum created was due, in part, to the heavy Christian emphasis on virtual communal worship and social justice at the expense of abandoning (rather than fostering) the physical presence of the believers assembled together.
Even religious organizations that have strictly social justice-oriented or charity-based movements could have been controlled by the state in terms of whether they can meet or not if this law was passed.
The astounding occurrence is that the well over 100 religious organizations in the area (listed weekly in the KDH) did not band together to support the bill with a yes vote that would have prohibited the state government from not only controlling their right to assemble, but subjecting them to the whim of the state that could close them down as it sees fit or limit them as the bill reads.
This would have been all under the paternalistic pretense of safety or concern; pandemic notwithstanding. Such an attitude would have given the state unbridled authority to violate the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution; namely: “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.” A clear case for the ACLU which never got involved.
Why would Americans who pride themselves on freedom, vote in support of giving such a power to the government?
Only in communist and dictatorial nations have such extreme laws limiting people’s rights to assemble (let alone worship) has this been enacted or mandated on a people. If this mentality of limiting people’s religious rights would ever pass unobserved and with inaction by religious leaders — dare I say it while I can? God help us all!!!
retired U.S. Army major