Since March, Americans have faced various challenges related to COVID-19.
Many have been furloughed or lost jobs. Others are adjusting to working from home while children try to finish their school year from a distance. And small businesses, restaurants, and even churches have had to make significant adjustments to their routines.
But while many aspects of our lives may have temporarily changed, our constitutional rights have not.
Government officials still have a duty to protect the First Amendment rights of their citizens when implementing measures to stop the spread of COVID-19. In particular, they should not apply stricter guidelines to churches than they do to similarly situated businesses. Unfortunately, we’ve seen several instances where government officials overstepped their authority when dealing with churches and ministries.
Thankfully, the ADF Church Alliance has responded to these First Amendment violations—and achieved important victories:
ADF attorneys have also stepped in to protect the free speech rights of pro-life advocates standing outside of abortion facilities. In March, David Benham was arrested in Charlotte, North Carolina for allegedly violating the state’s stay-at-home order by sidewalk counseling outside of a Planned Parenthood—even though they were following all the proper guidelines. ADF attorneys sent a demand letter to the city on behalf of David Benham and have now filed a lawsuit on behalf of his pro-life organization and another one.
Currently, many states and local governments are beginning to reopen businesses from the shutdown after the White House issued guidelines for doing so.
But every state is different, and it’s important to know your rights.
Do you have questions or concerns about actions being taken in your city or state? Please visit our COVID-19 resource page to find out more, submit a question, request legal help, or download our COVID-19 Reopening Resource.
During times of crisis, we must come together to support the common good. But we must also remain alert to ensure that our constitutional rights are not violated. As founding father Thomas Jefferson said, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”