New York City is in crisis. The city of over 8.7 million people is the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. New York City currently has almost 41,000 cases, and nearly a third of the U.S. COVID-19 related deaths have been in the city.
Many governors and mayors have issued public health emergency proclamations that have ranged from shelter-in-place orders to the closure of individual businesses where people congregate and restrictions on gatherings or events of more than ten people.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a shelter-in-place order for the entire state. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio issued his own emergency executive orders in support of that, including empowering city agencies to enforce the emergency orders.
These orders have effectively prohibited corporate worship services within the city. The orders initially prohibited gatherings of more than 500 in attendance and eventually included every congregation.
I have written about my concern regarding the constitutionality of such orders on churches. I believe such orders are unconstitutional. That said, I do think congregations should voluntarily follow the recommendations regarding gatherings of ten or more during a pandemic out of love for our neighbors and one another, considering it is for a temporary period of time.
Recently, de Blasio issued a threat to churches and synagogues within his city. He said that congregations that do not follow the emergency orders and temporarily close could be closed permanently.
“Everyone has been instructed if they see worship services going on, they will go to the officials of that congregation. They will inform them they need to stop the services and disperse. If that does not happen, they will take additional action up to the point of fines and potentially closing the building permanently,” he said during a press briefing.
(Why not mention mosques as well?)
It is one thing amid a pandemic to stop the gatherings of ten or more people temporarily. Again, I question the constitutionality of such orders, but they are not without precedent. Threatening to confiscate a congregation’s building if they don’t comply is another thing entirely. It is tyranny.