If I told you, "a priest, a rabbi and a governor go to court," you would expect to hear the rest of the joke. But this is not funny. Instead, it's rather sad.

I was surprised when no religious leader had a problem with Gov. Phil Murphy closing places of worship as part of the government shutdown, not even considering the Bill of Rights.

Instead, it was State Sen. Michael Doherty, R-Warren, who asked for outside services. Then came Kevin Robinson of St. Anthony of Padua church, who filed a federal lawsuit against Gov. Phil Murphy, saying that an emergency executive order amid the state's first public health emergency is unconstitutional for restricting gatherings including religious services. Robinson has since been joined by Yisrael Knopfler, an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, who presides over a synagogue in Lakewood.

Archdiocese of Newark Communications Director Maria Margiotta reminds you that, "the parish has no affiliation with the Archdiocese of Newark. It is part of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), which is 'Catholic,' but NOT in communion with Rome, and therefore, is not recognized by the Roman Catholic Church."


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Maybe Rome should call Father Robinson for advice, because where I come from, when someone tries to shut down your church, you take action.

According to the complaint, Robinson said he "has been threatened by local law enforcement with arrest and criminal prosecution if he dares to offer a Mass or conduct any other public gathering in his church, which remains closed due to this threat," under the March 21 executive order aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.

Imagine being thrown into the same jail that they let real criminals out of because you held Mass. How would you like to be those guys on Judgement Day?

According to the lawsuit, the "Governor of New Jersey and his highest-ranking law enforcement officer are either unwilling or unable to recognize that when it comes to addressing a pandemic, there is no relevant difference between people sitting in offices or transportation hubs and people sitting in churches or synagogues."

The lawsuit is absolutely on point. If you can observe social distancing in places that are open, then you can do it anywhere. Going to church or synagogue should be an individual decision and not one made for you by a governor who seems to think he's "Our Father who art in Jersey."

If you believe you're going to get the coronavirus from going to church or synagogue, then don't go. No one is forcing you. But if you believe you're going to be all right in a house of worship, then by all means go. In the end, like all religions, it's all about faith. Either way, I'd hate to be the judge that would have to rule whether it's okay to shut down a house of God.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Steve Trevelise. Any opinions expressed are Steve's own. Steve Trevelise is on New Jersey 101.5 Monday-Thursday from 7pm-11pm. Follow him on Twitter @realstevetrev.

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