Texas Governor Greg Abbott today has just today, 3/31/2020, issued an Executive Order GA 14. This Executive Order suspends the rights of county judges and city mayors from prohibiting and banning religious services to the extent that it conflicts with what the governor has declared permissible in this coronavirus COVID-19 disaster. Specifically, the governor ordered that religious services are considered essential in the State of Texas, and therefore, cities and counties can no longer consider them non-essential to the extent of banning them, although common sense restrictions can still be in place locally to try to limit the spread of the coronavirus while not prohibiting religious services outright.
In recent weeks, there have been varying and sometimes hypocritical, unconstitutional, and conflicting orders from Texas county judges and Texas city mayors. One of the biggest points of controversy has been county judges and city mayors banning all religious services and threatening arrest of pastors. This certainly seems to violate the Constitution’s First Amendment protections of religion. These orders also seem completely hypocritical.
While there is no question that this virus is serious and steps should be taken to stop the spread of it, that does not mean the most basic constitutional rights can be violated such as banning churches. Religious services ARE essential to this great State of Texas and the United States of America. They are expressly protected by the Texas State and US Constitution.
More reasonable restrictions can be enforced in order to stop the spread. It was outrageous that people were being banned from going to see their pastor even just one on one in a parking lot, yet in these same counties which restricted religious services, you were still able to do a long list of many activities that do not even seem essential like going get beer, or in cases of essential activities, you could do them with limited restriction such as going into a crowded grocery store.
If going to a grocery store is essential, and you can go mingle with lots of people in a grocery store during these quarantines, then surely you should be able to also reasonably go to your church. Any essential activities, however, should be reasonably restricted to help stop the spread of this virus while still allowing people to eat and practice religion. Spacing requirements and no physical contact, sanitation upon entering, temperature taking upon entering, and outdoor services with a speaker system. Heck, you could probably get everyone to wear a hazmat suit. There are lots of ways to help stop the spread without violating the Constitution, and while allowing people to conduct essential activities.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott brought some common sense to the chaos today with this executive order, and he cut through the hypocrisy and contradicting orders; while at the same time, he is working to stop and slow the spread of the virus and protect the Constitution.