Wallace B. Henley on Pentecost, Shavuot, and the ‘Suicide Pact’

In a week when faithful Jews are observing Shavuot — the giving of the Torah through Moses on Mount Sinai — and serious Christians are celebrating Pentecost — the birth of the Church in Jerusalem two thousand years ago — it is a blessing that California Governor Gavin Newsom has to a limited extent lifted his ban on worship gatherings in his state.

But… wait.

What is this business of civil government banning and permitting and stipulating congregational seating, number of hymns, communion protocols, the sharing of prayer books, mosque prayer rugs, church hymnals and other policies and practices of religious groups in the first place?

Thankfully, Newsom’s newest policy shifts away from a U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals finding from two of a three-judge panel who this week agreed with Newsom’s original ban.

In doing so, the judges revealed a troubling trend.

There is a subtle creep of utilitarianism in their interpretation of the Bill of Rights, shoving aside principle. Judges Jacquelyn Nguyen and Barry Silverman bypassed James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, and only reached back to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, who served 1941-1954. Jackson said that if a court “does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the Constitution’s Bill of Rights into a suicide pact.”

Apparently, in the minds of those two 9th Circuit judges, it would have been deadly for the Bill of Rights if California religious bodies gathered for worship during the present crisis. The judges’ “practical wisdom” was the justification for this suffocation of the First Amendment. Religious belief, speech, and practice are at its heart.

This means the church and other religious bodies must be at the point in defending the First Amendment.

Because of the coronavirus spiritual communities have had to crawl back into a “womb” of sorts. Now many are eager to leave that “womb” of quarantine, like a baby ready to be born pushing on its mother’s sheltering body. Many Christians understandably see this coming Pentecost Sunday as a “rebirth” of the church.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Wallace B. Henley