Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Republicans Insist Churches Are Essential Businesses-- Even As Congregations Become Hot-Beds Of COVID-19 Infection


Failure by Nancy Ohanian

Since the shutdown here in L.A., gun shops have been busier than usual, sometimes with long lines snaking down the street in front of them. A friend of mine who has never owned one before, bought one, a shotgun. Are people worried marauders looking for pasta and toilet paper could be a danger to their families? Another exception-- primarily, but not exclusively, in Southern states-- is even crazier: churches. I recall in early December, when I was flying back to the U.S. from Seoul (on a Korean airline) there was whispering about a strange new deadly disease sweeping through a religious sect centered around the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Daegu. What started as a few dozen cases clustered around a few churches with bizarre and unhealthy practices has led to over 10,000 cases across the county.

Many Southern governors have excepted churches from shelter-in-place orders. Florida is the worst of them but church services are also going full blast in Alabama, South Carolina, Louisiana, Tennessee, West Virginia, New Hampshire, Delaware, Michigan, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri and Arkansas. Most of these states have the largest proportion of elderly citizens (and Trump supporters). Ron DeSantis, widely considered the governor who has handled pandemic the worst in the nation, said "I don’t think the government has the authority to close a church. I’m certainly not going to do that. In Easter season, people are going to want to have access to religious services."

Most of the religious facilities still operating are non-mainstream cults and sects. The Mormons have suspended services as have Catholics, mainstream Jews and Muslims. Even the mainstream evangelical churches have decided to suspend services. Snake-handling services are still going strong and, of course, ultra orthodox Hasidic Jews are ignoring the pandemic entirely-- although Hasidic communities are being ravaged by COVID-19.

There's a battle raging in Wisconsin over religious gatherings right now. The governor, Tony Evers, is a Democrat, but both houses of the legislature are controlled by backward fanatical Republicans who are demanding that churches not be forced to close down. So far Evers is ignoring them, well aware that in-person gatherings during this pandemic are extremely risky and need to be avoided."

Wisconsin' crackpot Assembly speaker Robin Vos wrote to Evers: "It is more important than ever that we allow Wisconsinites to observe their individual faiths. To that end, we ask that you work with Wisconsin churches and temples to allow them to hold Easter or Passover services, even if it’s outside.”

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett reminded the nuts that "This disease does not have a religious exemption. As much as I would love this disease to have a religious exemption, a family exemption, a voting exemption, it does not. And and it’s not just the people who would attend these services, but it would be the people that they would infect."

No doubt, there are people thinking that if a bunch of moron Trumpers want to risk their lives, let them... and some might even think it would be best for the national gene pool. But that is the wrong attitude.
It’s not just church members potentially infecting themselves; it’s that they may later infect people in their families or people they cross paths with at a grocery store.

“Religious freedom” isn’t the issue here. The only issue is public safety. Republicans just don’t give a damn. They’d rather see more people suffer than do something difficult that helps everyone in the state.

Plenty of religious leaders have already found a way around this. They’re live-streaming their sermons and they’ll still celebrate the holidays, even if the method is far from their preferred option. But guess what? That’s what we’re all doing, whether we’re students, teachers, or parents.

It’s not pastors making this demand of Evers; it’s the GOP trying to curry favor with those pastors by acting like defenders of faith. Republicans are the problem, not the religious leaders. If only Wisconsin residents understood that enough that they stopped voting for the GOP.

Anyway, if your pastor insists that you attend an in-person service right now, then you’re part of a death cult and you need to get the hell out. Apparently we can say the same about the Republican Party.
Last week, the CBS TV channel in Sacramento reported that about a third of all "confirmed coronavirus cases in Sacramento County is being linked to church-related gatherings." Over the weekend, a team of Washington Post reporters wrote about an open church there that drew 7 congregants-- including the pastor-- for Palm Sunday. "For the religious," they wrote. "one of the crueler elements of the coronavirus and its potent contagiousness is that places where people go in times of fear, in search of solace in faith and in friends, are closed in many states to stop the spread of the disease. Churches, temples and other places of worship nationwide — where congregants sit close, take Communion, share hugs and handshakes and pecks on the cheek — have served as hothouses for the virus, with religious gatherings exacerbating outbreaks in New Rochelle, N.Y.; Washington, D.C.; Glenville, Ill.; and Sacramento, among others... The in-person gatherings in some cases go against many stay-at-home orders and bans on assemblies of more than 10 people, which President Trump has endorsed. Eight states do not have such orders, but there have been arguments within the White House that a national regulation should be put in place as infections accelerate."
[S]ome houses of worship and gatherings of religious leaders have proved particularly dangerous in areas where the virus has been prevalent.

Following the outbreak in Sacramento, Mayor Darrell Steinberg (D) made clear that disregard for the prohibition on church gatherings could prompt police intervention. Steinberg’s wife serves as cantor at the city’s largest synagogue, which now streams its services online.

“This is a time when people are coming to church for hope and meaning, and in that way, faith has never been more important,” said Steinberg, a member of Congregation B’nai Israel, one of the oldest west of the Mississippi. “I believe passionately in the free exercise of religion, but I must say I am outraged that anyone would use the free exercise of religion to justify gathering together at this time.”

“To claim that the free exercise of religion is absolute and outweighs the obvious life-and-death risk of praying together right now,” Steinberg continued, “well, it’s blasphemy itself.”

Sacramento police have been advised that in some cases, it might be permissible to disperse a congregation. Steinberg said those acts would happen only when there is a “blatant disregard” for the prohibition.

“We’re not going to use arresting people as the way to address this,” the mayor said. “Social pressure is much more appropriate, and that social pressure includes making it clear that these are legal orders being defied.”

The concern extends nationally, given the reach of the virus, from megacities to small towns.

In late February, six people who attended an Episcopal church conference at the Omni Hotel in downtown Louisville tested positive for the coronavirus. North Carolina public health officials say “multiple cases” of the virus are linked to a March event held by the Faith Assembly Christian Center at the Millennium Hotel Durham, despite a ban on gatherings of more than 100 people at the time.

Rural Minnesota has reported at least nine coronavirus cases traced to a church. And 43 fell ill, one fatally, after attending a March 15 service at the Life Church of Glenview, in Glenview, Ill., a Chicago suburb. At least 10 members tested positive for the coronavirus. The service was held several days before the Illinois governor imposed a stay-at-home order.

There are other cases. But none has reached the scope of the tragedy at the Bethany Slavic Missionary Church, a 3,500-member congregation that occupies a fenced compound here in southeast Sacramento.

Public health officials say 71 congregants of the church, a major gathering place for the city’s large Eastern European immigrant community, have been infected by the coronavirus. As of Saturday, that infection number accounts for 18 percent of Sacramento County’s total cases. Ten people have died in the county.

The church is now closed, its high gates locked to outsiders and a police car parked outside the main sanctuary. Signs posted are in English and Russian, one in large print on the front door announcing: “No Any Services.”

Among the sick is senior pastor Adam Bondaruk, who has been at the church for three decades. The church administrator, Viktor Lyulkin, said by phone that Bondaruk, a Ukrainian immigrant, has been hospitalized and is in stable condition.

...A poll released this week of Protestant pastors found that the number of churches holding services dropped from 99 percent on March 1 to 64 percent by March 15, and then to 7 percent by March 29, according to Lifeway Christian Resources. Lifeway is the publishing division of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Polls also have shown that those who lean conservative politically are more skeptical of the virus’s seriousness and danger. Until early March, Trump falsely claimed the coronavirus cases were decreasing and said the disease would disappear “like a miracle.”

Those who attend church more frequently are much more likely to identify as or lean Republican, polls also show. Forty-four percent of the GOP leaners go to religious services at least weekly, compared with 29 percent of Democrats.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) declared last week that religious services are essential to the lives of Texans. Pastor Jason Sides used Facebook Live to tell his flock he was determined to open Christian World Ministries in San Antonio.

Sides had held a prayer service on Wednesday, and 75 people came into the 1,000-person sanctuary for the first time in weeks.

“If church is as essential to you as a trip to the pharmacy or Walmart, the doors will be open,” Sides said Wednesday. “We will be trusting God to take care of us.”

But by the weekend, Sides had had second thoughts.

San Antonio city leaders pleaded with churches Friday to use remote services. Sides said he struggled with the decision, keeping in mind the dozens of calls from members telling him their homes were not safe, their marriages were falling apart, their jobs lost.

“We hear a lot about the external, the import of washing hands and not touching the face,” Sides said. “But what of the internal?”

...The Rev. Tony Spell, pastor of the megachurch Life Tabernacle outside Baton Rouge, has been defying an emergency order by the governor banning gatherings of more than 50 people. Police on Tuesday issued a misdemeanor summons to Spell, who says that he had 1,000 people in his church Sunday and that he was planning to hold services again this Sunday.

“We feel we are being persecuted for our faith by being told to close our doors and not gather,” he said. He noted that some stores are open, including clinics that perform abortions. “You’re saying religion isn’t essential, but Target is.”

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At 9:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you're sickened and dying from COVID-19,
And the liberals hassle you 'cause you were mean
Jest pull out your Bible and become serene
An' go to your Gawd with the Rapture.

At 12:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I say if your gawd is so puny he won't or can't protect you from a virus, that he supposedly created, maybe you need to rethink your "faith".

Perhaps it isn't that gawd is puny. Perhaps it's that your intellect is puny.

In a funny way, I take satisfaction in all those religions who admit that their gawd is a fraud by admitting that going to worship that fraud can make them sick and die.

I say "I told you so" to all those religions and religious who are too fucking stupid to admit the obvious and will mingle, get sick, and die.

As usual with the religious, they always take far too many innocents into the dirt with them.

If mankind were ever to evolve to the point where no such beliefs in utter nonsense could be... we'd have something.

At 1:42 PM, Blogger Ten Bears said...

Lock them in.


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