Thomas J. Tobin, the Catholic bishop of Providence, Rhode Island, has challenged the authority of the state to shut down the religious worship of its citizens.
“I’m not an historian at all, but I wonder what our founder, Roger Williams, would have said about the power of the State to prevent religious folk from gathering for worship, even during difficult times,” Bishop Tobin tweeted early Saturday.
The bishop was referencing the Baptist minister and theologian Roger Williams, founder of Providence Plantations, which became the Colony of Rhode Island. Williams was an outspoken advocate for religious freedom as well as separation of church and state and was, moreover, one of the first abolitionists.
As a result of Williams’ leadership, Rhode Island became a haven for Baptists, Quakers, Jews, and other religious minorities.
As Breitbart News reported, a number of U.S. churches are filing lawsuits against Democrat governors who are keeping churches closed under the assertion that the services they provide are “nonessential.”
Churches and faith leaders from Oregon, California, Virginia, and Maine have already filed lawsuits claiming the governors do not have authority over churches and faith leaders to extend lockdown orders against them.
“We are very concerned that churches and other places of worship are not being treated in the same manner as, say, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Target, Walmart and other large corporate stores,” said Oregon State Rep. Bill Post. “I was in my Keizer Lowe’s this past Saturday, and there were well over 1,000 people in the store at one time.”
In a separate federal lawsuit in the Southern District of California, the Thomas More Society asserted that California is one of only eight states “whose response to the COVID-19 pandemic has included no accommodation for—hardly even a mention of—the religious rights of its citizens.”
“After weeks of government suppression of their religious freedoms, our clients have said enough is enough,” said Charles LiMandri, special counsel for the Thomas More Society. “The First Amendment still protects their right to freely exercise their faith, even during a pandemic.”