State senator wants outside religious gatherings allowed (Opinion)
It is my belief that the places of worship should be declared essential in New Jersey as we fight this coronavirus pandemic. Why shouldn't someone who wears a mask and practices social distancing be able to go in, say a prayer, maybe light a candle?
If they can walk through the liquor store, then why not a place of worship?
State Sen. Michael Doherty (R-Warren) says religion is an "essential service" and has launched an online petition calling for in-person outside religious gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic. It's a "constitutionally protected right" that should be allowed to resume with "reasonable precautions," he says."
Doherty, who came on my show on New Jersey 101.5 last week, said:
"We're seeking to get authorization for outdoor services, on a lawn of the church, in the parking lot of the church. The weather is getting warmer and we want to make it extremely reasonable for Gov. Murphy to consider this. It would be outdoor church services with the appropriate social distancing."
Personally, I can't see a problem with that, especially when we can go out and get an adult beverage.
"In view of the fact that folks can go into liquor stores to buy their liquor, they can go into stores and interact with the lottery dispensing machines at this time and have it all deemed essential," Doherty said. "And in view of the fact that we have a First Amendment, a right to assemble, a right to freedom of religion, and that's in both the U.S. and the New Jersey state constitution, It seems that the appropriate thing to do is to grant this authorization and to allow people at attending church service."
Doherty, a military veteran, went on to say: "Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that it's voided and doesn't have to be followed during wartime or emergency situation. A governor has no authority to strip away the ultimate law of the land."
And to emphasize, Doherty added, "I hope the people realize that the Constitution is the ultimate law if the land. The New Jersey Constitution is the ultimate law in the state of New Jersey and the governor has no right to say it doesn't apply anymore. We're on dangerous ground here in 2020 that we think that a governor can write an executive decision and take away all of our rights."
When asked about Murphy's comment regarding not thinking of the Bill Of Rights when he started closing churches, and it being "above my pay grade," Doherty, a military veteran said, "The governor should have thought long and hard before he gave that answer. It just goes to show you what his priorities were. His priorities were not thinking about the Constitution. They were thinking about putting out subjective decrees."
Murphy also told Tucker Carlson that he doesn't go to the men's room without speaking to an attorney. I asked Doherty what an attorney would have told the governor if he had indeed asked.
"I think most attorneys would have told him that the First Amendment cannot be waived by executive action and that it applies," Doherty said. "You're supposed to come up with the least restrictive solution to a problem and certainly, the least restrictive solution to keeping everybody healthy is not just to close down churches."
Doherty's plan bends over backward to be reasonable, calling for outdoor services:
"Who could say it's a problem to stand outside a least six feet apart from everyone else, hopefully in the sunshine, and worship God?" he asked. "How could that be a problem with anybody? And if the governor does not recognize that and still continues to say no, then we've got a real problem in New Jersey."
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