On November 25, the Supreme Court's ruling of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo defended the First Amendment – further validating that the government has no place in imposing on religious freedom.
The appointment of Amy Coney Barrett, a constitutionalist, proved to be significant in the splitting 5-4 decision. The ruling stated that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo could not limit the size of gatherings at churches and synagogues, citing that it violated the First Amendment.
The Supreme Court's majority opinion alluded to how the government should not be enabled to tell citizens what to do. "But even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten. The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment's guarantee of religious liberty."
This is a stark contrast from the Supreme Court's rulings in May and July. Since the onset of COVID-19, we have seen governors try to impose harsh restrictions on places of worship, yet not yielding those same sanctions on businesses.
In July the Supreme Court's decision permitted Nevada to impose stricter restrictions on churches than on casinos. Churches were limited to gatherings of 50 or less, while casinos could operate at 50% occupancy. Just a few months prior, the court ruled against allowing churches to exceed a 25% occupancy in California, while businesses did not have the same restrictions. The rights of businesses should not be placed over our individual liberties.
Why is our freedom to worship one of the first rights to be restricted in moments of crisis?
Since the First Amendment was adopted in December of 1791, it prohibited the government from interfering in the religious beliefs or practices of individuals.
As James Madison penned in the Memorial and Remonstrance in 1785, "Because we hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth, 'that Religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence.' The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate."
However, if the current election results stand, our religious freedoms will be in jeopardy.
President-elect Joe Biden has already made the Equality Act a top legislative priority for his first 100 days in office. This new act would lead to impositions on individual rights and liberties – challenging biblical principles held by religious organizations. It would also threaten federal student aid to Christian higher education institutions that hold beliefs that are indifferent to the Equality Act.
As history shows us, elections have consequences. The decisions we make impact the future of our nation. The president we elect has the power to appoint a Supreme Court who can threaten the very liberties and freedoms our nation was founded on. Given the current climate in our nation, we can't dismiss our Founding Fathers' resolve to establish a nation that protects one's right to religious freedom.
Every election counts. Whether it's on the local or national level, we must continue to vote for individuals who will hold true to the Constitution and our individual rights. The freedoms and liberties we have the privilege of enjoying are at stake. If we aren't fighting for our freedoms, who will?
Dr. Kent Ingle serves as the President of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, and is the author of "Framework Leadership." A champion of innovative educational design, Ingle is the president of one of the fastest growing private universities in the nation. As president, Ingle founded the American Center for Political Leadership at the university and is also a founding member of the Presidents' Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. Before becoming Southeastern's president in 2011, Ingle held leadership positions in higher education and the nonprofit sector in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Seattle. Ingle is the author of several leadership books and the creator of the Framework Leadership podcast. He currently serves on the board of the Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Read Kent Ingle's Reports — More Here.
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