There are also civil liberties concerns as to whether widespread closures in American society to counter coronavirus dissemination are allowed under the Constitution. That said, there has been a grudging consensus that it has to be done, at least to the point that there has been no significant legal opposition to the numerous lockout measures across the United States.
However, I don’t really know what to do with the danger by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio to “permanently” close down every place of worship that seeks to serve in the face of a citywide moratorium on gatherings.
Yeah, if the congregation wants to work, says the mayor, you will do well.
“If you go to your synagogue, if you go to your church and continue to hold services, despite being advised too much not to do so, our law enforcement officers will have no choice but to close down those services,” de Blasio said Friday, according to a transcript from the news conference.
“I’m not doing that with much happiness. This is the last thing I would like to do, because I understand how important people’s religions are to them, and in this moment of turmoil, we need our religion. But we don’t need meetings that would place people at risk.
“There is no tradition of religion that endorses something that endangers the leaders of the community. So, NYPD, Fire Department, Buildings Department, everybody has been told that if they see religious services going on, they will go to the authorities of the church, they will tell them that they need to interrupt the service and leave. “And if they continue to serve until fines are given, well, poof. De Blasio said the penalties should be the first line of action. Let’s hope that will allow the congregations to stop meeting.
“If that doesn’t work, they’ll take punitive measures to the point of fines and eventually close down the building indefinitely,” he said.
De Blasio: churches and synagogues conducting religious services could be permanently closing pic.twitter.com/kdUsdp2YO—Matthew Schmitz (@matthewschmitz) March 29, 2020 Most of the places of worship in New York City are performing their services online, if at all, and locking down their doors, according to Politico. Still not any of them.
“Unfortunately, a limited number of religious groups, specific churches and specific synagogues do not pay heed to this guideline even if it is so universal,” de Blasio said.
“You were alerted. You’re going to need to interrupt services. Support people express their religion in many ways, but not in crowds, not in meetings that can place others at risk. “Yeah, there is no safer way for recalcitrant religion organizations now conducting services in the wake of a moratorium on mass events to stop than to say,” You have been warned. “There is no doubt that the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom is powerful — too much so.
“There is little in the legislation or precedent to create a general and unilateral declaration of ‘state of emergency’ as an undisputed authority,” Hall wrote in Op-Ed for The Western Newspaper. “There is still nothing in the statute or tradition to justify a limit on the number of persons who can meet in a church, for health purposes or otherwise, as a justification for violating the constitutional right to freedom of worship.” Yet another First Amendment expert, Eugene Volokh, told The Associated Press that the facts surrounding the coronavirus explosion are murky in the seas.
If religious groups argued that they were being called out for special treatment, it would be one thing, Volokh, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, told the AP.
Do you think the government should have the authority to ban the churches from meeting to discourage the coronavirus from spreading?
“But if, for reasons entirely unrelated to the religiosity of conduct, you are only putting the same pressure on everybody, it is likely to be acceptable,” he said.
Of example, it’s not clear if de Blasio’s comment was fully thought out. I would strongly doubt any church who has managed to meet in person in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, despite the questionable legal existence of any regulation restricting the right of speech, how can any official excuse indefinitely closing down a place of worship or a congregation, no matter how ill-informed their decision to start meeting in person was.
And in terms of things being counter-productive, if you’re going to face a court battle over a series of orders given by state and municipal officials in the last few weeks, the legal challenge of ending the right of a religious group to worship in perpetuity is the nearest you can get to a slam-dunk litigation argument.
What part of U.S. case law makes de Blasio believe this is going to come before the courts? We may be in terra nova because of the coronavirus epidemic, but the first amendment also holds here and closing down a school, synagogue or mosque indefinitely does not appear to align with it. Moreover, if anything comes before the court and the injunctive relief is issued, what is to guarantee that other organizations and people do not use it to reverse other state and municipal coronavirus orders? If this occurs, de Blasio could do a disservice of cataclysmic proportions to the cause of public safety.
So even though they’re not toppled — is that actually what de Blasio’s incompetent government needs to waste its time in court talking about? Whether or not the municipal council has the power to effectively extinguish a religious community?
It won’t sound as good in court as it does at a press conference — especially as the coronavirus issue comes to an end, but the ban on the congregation meeting won’t come under de Blasio’s attack. That will be petty dictatorship, pure and simple, in the middle of the coronavirus crisis.
I don’t believe that’s what de Blasio said at all, however, as he could be seen to say something of considerable severity.
This was another politician in front of a camera, trying to look tough. Here we have another public official who imagines himself in the chaos of Aaron Sorkin, who fixes yet another question by doing or doing something dramatic (if not legally sound).
My guess is that we don’t have to think about de Blasio really going through what he said on Friday. The Mayor can have his moment of President Bartlet’s cosplay as soon as anyone with the law chops took him aside after the press conference and said, “Ah, yeah, but about the closure of the church, Mr. Mayor …” There is, of course, the awful chance that de Blasio is crazy enough to follow ahead with this, however. After all, he personally launched a failed presidential nominating bid, operating under the misapprehension that what Americans were really calling for in a president was a bland mayor of the nation’s largest city. (Thanks to de Blasio, his misapprehension was significantly less costly than that of the other man in the sector who made the same mistake.) Had de Blasio wanted to do that, it might not only end up in litigation, it would be the beginning of a legal avalanche that hinders the ability of the state and local governments to handle coronavirus.
Any way, it is a heavy-handed challenge that is almost definitely illegal and does nothing but damage credibility and confidence in Gotham’s ability to deal with COVID-19.