` `

COVID-19 Policies Don't Treat Mosques and Churches Differently

Editorial Team Editorial Team
21st May 2020
COVID-19 Policies Don't Treat Mosques and Churches Differently
it would seem as though religious institutions are being treated equally (Getty Images)

The Claim

Mosques have been allowed to remain open for services during the COVID crisis, while churches have not.

Emerging story

Multiple sources including Joshua Feuerstein of Facebook claim that during the COVID crisis mosques have been allowed to remain open for services while churches have not. In several US states, all places of worship have supposed to have been be closed for the duration of the crisis by government mandate. Are these executive orders being enforced selectively?

Misbar’s Analysis

During the COVID crisis many religious institutions have closed their doors temporarily to ensure that their members do not risk spreading the virus. However, others have fought for what they see as their constitutional rights to assemble and worship freely, especially during the Easter and Ramadan seasons.

In response, the following states have passed executive orders banning participation in religious services for the duration of the crisis: California, Washington, Idaho, Montana (started to allow small religious gatherings on April 26), Alaska, Minnesota, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Vermont. According to the Pew Research Center, as of April 26, an additional 25 states had restrictions on places of worship, and 15 had exempted them from rules prohibiting gatherings.

Of course, such executive orders are supposed to treat all religions equally. But a Facebook post, as well as an article from Blaze, are claiming that there is a “double standard,” or rather selective enforcement, by which churches have been forced to close during Easter but not mosques during Ramadan. Facebook users have commented, “It is happening all over the US and, “Yep it’s Ramadan and everyone saw this coming.” President Trump retweeted a tweet to the same effect as well.

The Facebook post says: “City officials allow MOSQUES to stay open… while arresting Christian pastors like Tony Spell in Baton Rouge Louisiana for bussing in poor minority children to feed them at Sunday service. Double standard anyone?????”

Likewise, Blaze Reports, “In Mississippi, some churchgoers received $500 fines for sitting in their vehicles in a church parking lot listening to a radio broadcast of the service… A northern California county even outlawed singing during church livestreams unless people are in a home. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio threatened to ‘permanently’ shut down churches and synagogues if they refused to comply with the shelter-in-place order.”

Tony Spell, pastor of Life Tabernacle Church and the pastor referenced in the Facebook post, was recently arrested and charged with aggravated assault for approaching with his church’s bus and allegedly almost running over a protestor physically preventing Spell from operating his church in defiance of stay-at-home orders. In addition to this incident, Spell had already been charged with six counts of violating his state’s stay-at-home order, by holding church services that exceeded the government-mandated limit.

It would seem that the California ban on singing seems to be targeting groups that congregate to watch church livestreams outside of a church building in numbers that defy gathering limits, requiring them to participate only in the solitude of their own homes. Finally, the third church was congregating in their individual cars in the church parking lot, listening to the pastor preach on short-distance radio since much of the congregation is elderly and lacks access to livestreaming. Authorities determined that this “congregation” also violated the law for the same reasons as the others.

In contrast, the mosque featured in the Facebook post and in the Blaze article came from a newspaper story that was published on April 15, regarding a mosque in Syracuse, New York, that was hosting groups of fewer than 10 worshipers (the legal limit) at a time into a ventilated room covered in plastic, to worship briefly before allowing the next group to take their place. When Ramadan began on April 23 and New York’s executive order went into effect, the gatherings stopped.

Overall it would seem as though religious institutions are being treated equally under the law, although fining individuals sitting in their own cars could be seen as exceeding the boundary of law enforcement, and the question of the constitutionality of prohibiting assembly itself —especially religious assembly— remains to be seen.

In summary, state executive orders are not being enforced selectively. Assembly under a certain level is allowed, and over that level is prohibited. As of April 23, many states prohibited all religious assembly altogether. While the legality of such orders is in question, the consistent enforcement of such laws is not.

Misbar’s Classification


Misbar’s Sources

Read More

Most Read