The Supreme Court signaled a major shift in its approach to coronavirus-related restrictions late Wednesday, voting 5-4 to bar New York state from reimposing limits on religious gatherings.
The emergency rulings, issued just before midnight, were the first significant indication of a rightward shift in the court since President Donald Trump’s newest appointee — Justice Amy Coney Barrett — last month filled the seat occupied by liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September.
Why is it a “rightward shift” to reinforce the single, most-fundamental, undergirding tenant upon which this country was founded? The people who settled this country were religious zealots who refused to be told what to do and how to do it when it came to practicing their belief in God, and they formed an entire country based on that premise. From the Declaration to the Constitution to everything that followed, not being told what to do when it comes to religion is about as American an idea as anything, and perhaps what makes this country unique. That principle of refusing to be told what to do has flowed through everything else that’s followed, from the South’s secession, to the gold rush and the Wild West, to people who refuse to wear masks.
I understand that some people won’t like this, but some of us still think the “freedom of religion” — and all that this phrase implies — is the most-valuable freedom we have. You may think it needs to be changed. That’s fine. There’s a process for that. Feel free to avail yourself of it. If you can amend the Constitution to strike the provisions of the First Amendment, then we can talk about whatever restrictions you’d like on churches. If you think that seems like an impossible thing, 1) it’s been done before, and 2) the daunting you feel at the thought is perfectly indicative of how unpopular and difficult this would be. As long as the First Amendment stands in effect, I reject the idea that anyone can tell anyone else how or when or where to worship God as they see fit.