Persistent Threats to Parents and Church Reopening Update

Yesterday, I had the privilege of joining several distinguished speakers at the webinar entitled, “Who Owns Our Children? Home Education in an Authoritarian Age.” This event was organized by Thomas More College in response to an anti-homeschooling summit scheduled to take place at Harvard Law School in June. Fortunately, the Harvard summit was canceled, but the false assertions and dangerous ideas about homeschooling and parental rights that motivated the event still demanded a strong rebuttal.   

Listen here

Renowned legal scholar and author, and Harvard Law grad, Robert George headlined the event. Professor George reminded us that children are not born into the state, but into a family with parents; therefore, parental rights are grounded in parental responsibility to provide for and direct the upbringing of children and the state cannot infringe upon those rights. Expounding on that sentiment, I reminded attendees that marriage and family preceded the formation of the state. As parents, our children are on loan to us from God. They are a gift, an inheritance, and a reward from the Lord as the Psalmist so eloquently puts it. However, Harvard Professor Elizabeth Bartholet, the organizer of the anti-homeschooling summit instead asserts that children are on loan to us from the state. These are two very different views of family. The former inspires parents to take seriously their responsibility to nurture and provide for the education of their children, while the latter leaves children vulnerable to the whims and wishes of the state. It is this statist ideology that led to the tragedy of Justina Pelletier and passage of the counseling ban. We must remain vigilant to engage these dangerous ideas in the public sphere and continue to strongly defend the rights of parents to make decisions that they deem proper for their children. Click here to watch the recorded video of the robust defense provided by all the speakers who participated in the webinar against the case for government usurpation of parental authority.  

I also wanted to give some important updates on the status of our churches on the question of reopening, both in MA and across the country:

  • KY – Late last week, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a Kentucky church resuming in-person services asking, “Why can someone safely walk down a grocery store aisle but not a pew?”
  • VA – Governor Northham just declared that in-person church services can resume starting May 15th if occupancy does not go above 50 percent of the lowest occupancy load.   
  • CA – A network of 3,000 California churches are planning to resume limited, in-person meetings, despite state directives to the contrary, on May 31st, Pentecost Sunday.  

Here in MA:

  • Worcester – Pastor Kris Casey of Adams Square Baptist Church in Worcester filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court yesterday seeking a temporary restraining order against Governor Baker’s 10-person limit on church gatherings. The church has held small, socially-distanced services at about 20 percent of their sanctuary’s capacity for the past several weeks, but has been repeatedly fined by the city authorities. Worcester police stationed mounted officers across the street from the church during its Sunday morning service two weeks ago and the Chief of Police showed up at the pastor’s home to issue him a warning in person. In his complaint against the governor, Pastor Casey states that the current shut down is “significantly burdening [his] right to the freedom of religion and assembly, …while providing broad exemptions for many activities that are not constitutionally protected, all without due process of law.” If the lawsuit is successful, it could give MA churches the ability to begin reopening on their own, regardless of what phase one of the governor’s plan has in store.
  • Dedham: Over the weekend MFI alerted you about the cease and desist order that was issued to a Dedham pastor who announced his plans to hold multiple services with no more than 10 in attendance on Mother’s Day. Even though Pastor Nick White of Victory Baptist Church was going to stay within the guidelines of Governor Baker’s executive order, the town of Dedham still felt they had the right to unfairly target his church. Thankfully, our friends at Alliance Defending Freedom are coming to the aid of Pastor White and sent a letter to Dedham town officials calling upon them to immediately rescind the order prohibiting the church from meeting. ADF Senior Counsel Ryan Tucker stated in the letter, “It makes no sense for the town of Dedham to demand that this church refrain from meeting with 10 or fewer people when the governor’s executive order explicitly allows that gathering size. The only apparent explanation is that the town wants to harass this church.” We will keep you updated as this story develops.

Finally, as we also reported last week, pastors and priests all over Massachusetts are ready to resume in person services and masses. Ahead of the roll out of Governor Baker’s phased reopening of the state hundreds of clergy members urged the governor in a letter to “swiftly and publicly” recognize churches as essential and to include them in the first phase of his plan. In the letter, faith leaders also expressed their disappointment that despite there being 8,000 churches in the Bay State, they have no representation on the Reopening Advisory Board. We encourage you to leave a comment for the 17-member board on the form located here, asking them that churches be allowed to reopen. Since churches are not a listed category submit your comments under the “Related Industry” section of the form and choose “Other Service.” 

During this time when much is uncertain and parental rights and religious liberty are threatened, MFI stands ready to support parents and pastors and remains committed to defend the God-given liberties that we hold so dear. Please help us continue our ministry to the community of faith with a donation today.

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