Should Churches Meet or Not Meet?

Dr. Rodney Howard-Browne, pastor of The River at Tampa Bay Church, was arrested at his home Monday for holding a church service last Sunday. The church is in Hillsborough County, Florida. The Hillsborough County administrative order includes 43 paragraphs of exemptions and then contains a catch-all paragraph stating that any commercial business that is not specifically exempted may operate, as long as it complies with the six-foot separate requirement.

Commercial businesses such as Home Depot and others are teaming with people purchasing such items as potted plants, fertilizers, and garden hoses. This business is free to operate without the six-foot requirement.
Why do people so easily think that churches should close, but places like Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Hobby Lobby should stay open? Churches have a First Amendment right to exist and assemble, but the commercial businesses do not. The Home Depots in Hillsborough County look like they’re giving out free merchandise. They’re packed with people. Truckloads are arriving to deliver such “essential items” as potted plants. There is no six-foot separation, and there is no special effort at all to keep people safe. Yet, The River at Tampa Bay Church spent $100,000 on special equipment and enforced a six-foot separation throughout the sanctuary and lobby.

Why is it the church can’t meet when it has a constitutional right to do so and has undertaken extraordinary efforts to protect people, but commercial businesses can meet with no constitutional protections, and many do nothing to protect anyone? People need to think more rationally and critically before they come to a knee-jerk reaction that churches should not meet. This is the United States of America, and we have a First Amendment for a reason. It’s not an either/or – that the church should or should not meet. In America, churches have a constitutional right to meet, and in so doing, they can take precautions to protect people.

When balancing constitutional rights against public health and safety, the government must use a scalpel, not a chain saw. The government must narrowly tailor restrictions on constructional rights. The Constitution does not disappear even in times of crisis.
Since the arrest of Pastor Browne, Texas, and Indiana, both modified their Executive Orders to include churches as “essential services.” Florida exempts churches and recommends they follow public health guidelines. Other counties in Florida do the same things, such as Orange County, where Orlando is located. Michigan exempts “houses of worship,” and Kansas exempts activities necessary to “preserve constitutional or legal rights,” including to “perform or attend religious or faith-based services or activities.

Please note: We reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

4 thoughts on “Should Churches Meet or Not Meet?

  1. Thank you for sharing the additional details about the precautions taken by Rodney Howard Brown.

    My initial response to the church body was something like this:

    “Dear Church,
    We can grow in this, beyond our flesh and blood, beyond our Sunday go to meeting clothes.
    Yes, church services are essential. We can gather in spirit and in truth reflecting the maturity of wisdom and honor by utilizing online services and/or outdoor open air services that accommodate social distancing guidelines. Remember, the church (body) is the people, not the steeple”

    However, if proper precautions are taken (such as you mentioned above) to protect the people and respectfully comply with governmental guidelines, continuing to gather would be within the Lord’s will & blessing.

    Thank you sir,
    Stay the course
    Spurling Silver

  2. We were outraged for the same reasons! I shopped at Lowes last week and have to say I was very excited to be able to buy spring flowers, and there were lots of people there shopping. Arresting the Pastor was nothing but the dark side of political power in the hands of an elected official with no respect for the Church, our Constitution, or the ordinance allowing religious gatherings.

  3. I’ve attended several online gatherings and I must say it’s still a wonderful bonding experience with the Father and with other believers. And for the most part its interactive so I can make comments if I feel led to do that. For me, I have to choose between what the Word says in Roman’s 13:1-2 and excercising my constitutional right to assemble in a church. When I weigh it out, even if you take the necessary precautions, its not a 100% guarantee everyone will be protected. It’s the same if you go to the grocery store and wear a masks and gloves. I err towards the side of making sure everyone in my God family is ok. With that said, I’ll continue online gatherings and I’ll make sure I pay my tithes and offerings like I’m suppose to. Blessings to all.