AG Bill Barr is “monitoring” government officials cracking down on religious services amid the coronavirus pandemic and he is ready to take “action.”
On Saturday, DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec tweeted that U.S. citizens should “expect action” next week regarding state officials regulating religious services to enforce social distancing.
“During this sacred week for many Americans, AG Barr is monitoring govt regulation of religious services. While social distancing policies are appropriate during this emergency, they must be applied evenhandedly & not single out religious orgs. Expect action from DOJ next week!” she wrote.
The tweet comes during Holy Week and Passover, when Christians and Jews typically congregate in places of worship and with family.
Governors across the U.S. have implemented stay-at-home orders or social distancing rules, often preventing worshipers from attending services. The Kansas Supreme Court, for example, voted in favor of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s executive order Saturday banning religious services of more than 10 people. Republican lawmakers had voted along party lines last week to rescind Kelly’s order, as the Washington Examiner reported.
“In our view, Kansas statute and the Kansas Constitution’s Bill of Rights each forbid the governor from criminalizing participation in worship gatherings by executive order,” State Attorney General Derek Schmidt wrote in a memo.
Religious leaders have pushed back on such orders and have thus faced fines and even arrests.
“We have faith,” Tony Spell, pastor of the Life Tabernacle Church in Louisiana, said. “Our church and people have extreme faith and deep convictions. That extreme faith tells us that we need to assemble.”
He continued, “This isn’t about a virus. If it was, the thousands of people in the big box stores would be at home. This is a persecution of people of faith.”