While Fighting the Coronavirus, Don’t Neglect the First Amendment

April 27 2020

While many houses of worship have closed voluntarily to protect their congregants from the coronavirus, there have been instances of state and local governments compelling them to cease operation. In some of these cases, governments have done so even when the institutions in question were cooperating with social-distancing guidelines; in others it seemed that places of prayer were being singled out for special scrutiny. Michael McConnell and Max Raskin call attention to two tried and true principles that can ensure that public-health measure do not infringe on one of America’s oldest and most cherished freedoms:

First, separation of church and state does not give religious communities immunity from regulation that is necessary for the common good.

The second principle is that the government can regulate religious activity only through what the Supreme Court calls “neutral” and “generally applicable” laws. This means that a government requirement cannot single out religious activity on the ground that it is somehow dispensable or “nonessential.” The government may regulate religious activities no more strictly than it regulates secular activities that present comparable risks. This principle was invoked by Judge Justin Walker of the Western District of Kentucky when he allowed a drive-in Easter service to take place in a church parking lot with cars six feet apart from one another. Noting that Kentucky permitted drive-through liquor stores to continue operating, the court quipped, “if beer is ‘essential,’ so is Easter.”

Third, both sides must seek what the courts call “reasonable accommodations.” . . . Government officials must continue to be vigilant about realistic public-health dangers from religious practice, but they must identify “less restrictive” means for achieving their purposes. For instance, Jewish ritual baths, called mikvahs, are permitted to operate in the tristate area, but are doing so with stricter rules and regulations, including enhanced disinfection and cleaning, and they are visited by appointment only.

Religious leaders and congregations will have to remember that the First Amendment is not an exemption from law applicable to all. And government officials must not forget that religious exercise is at the apex of our national values. Mass is not a football game, a minyan not a cruise. Worship cannot shelter in place indefinitely.

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Read more at New York Times

More about: Coronavirus, First Amendment, Freedom of Religion, Mikveh, U.S. Politics

 

The Attempted Murder of Salman Rushdie Should Render the New Iran Deal Dead in the Water

Aug. 15 2022

On Friday, the Indian-born, Anglo-American novelist Salman Rushdie was repeatedly stabbed and severely wounded while giving a public lecture in western New York. Reports have since emerged—although as yet unverified—that the would-be assassin had been in contact with agents of Iran, whose supreme leaders have repeatedly called on Muslims to murder Rushdie. Meanwhile U.S. and European diplomats are trying to restore the 2015 nuclear agreement with Tehran. Stephen Daisley comments:

Salman Rushdie’s would-be assassin might have been a lone wolf. He might have had no contact with military or intelligence figures. He might never even have set foot in Tehran. But be in no doubt: he acted, in effect, as an agent of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Under the terms of the fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini in February 1989, Rushdie “and all those involved in [his novel The Satanic Verses’s] publication who were aware of its content, are sentenced to death.” Khomeini urged “brave Muslims to kill them quickly wherever they find them so that no one ever again would dare to insult the sanctities of Muslims,” adding: “anyone killed while trying to execute Rushdie would, God willing, be a martyr.”

An American citizen has been the victim of an attempted assassination on American soil by, it appears, another American after decades of the Iranian supreme leader agitating for his murder. No country that is serious about its national security, to say nothing of its national self-worth, can pretend this is some everyday stabbing with no broader political implications.

Those implications relate not only to the attack on Rushdie. . . . In July, a man armed with an AK-47 was arrested outside the Brooklyn home of Masih Alinejad, an Iranian dissident who was also the intended target of an abduction plot last year orchestrated by an Iranian intelligence agent. The cumulative weight of these outrages should render the new Iran deal dead in the water.

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Read more at Spectator

More about: Freedom of Speech, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy