Mendocino County in California is being criticized for banning singing while churches are recording their online services, unless the people are singing from home.
The county issued the order on Good Friday and it extends through May 10.
Per the order, there can only be four people recording from one place and “no singing or use of wind instruments, harmonicas or other instruments that could spread COVID-19 through projected droplets shall be permitted unless the recording of the event is done at one’s residence.” The order that also applies to concert halls, auditoriums, temples and playhouses.
Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr., a theologian and ordained minister, and serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, penned a powerful op-ed slamming the order as a violation of religious freedom.
Mohler wrote that “over the course of this pandemic, I’ve consistently argued that churches should follow generally applicable shelter-in-place orders. In an article I co-wrote for The Washington Post, I stated that many of these orders and guidelines from the CDC do not violate religious liberty—moreover, Christians have a duty out of love of neighbor to comply with general policies that attempt to abate the spread of the coronavirus.”
However, he asserted that when “policies target or single out churches and religious groups, this becomes an entirely different issue—it is an issue of an unconstitutional violation of religious liberty.”
“We have a major problem when governments indicate that liquor stores and pet stores are essential but religious services are not. When governments assert that abortions are essential but singing in a streamed worship service is just too unsafe and nonessential, then we have slipped into a complete upending of the American constitutional order,” Mohler wrote. “Government should never be in the position to derail any religious ministry and deem it nonessential. That is, on its face, completely unconstitutional.”
Fox News reports that in a similar case of government overreach on religion, Attorney General Bill Barr backed Temple Baptist Church in Mississippi after Greenville police began ticketing members $500 each for refusing to leave a drive-in service where they were complying with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.