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Dear Governor DeWine, Why are Churches Exempt from the Group Gathering Ban?

Sign on our Front Door

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine issued an order closing schools and banning community and social gatherings of more than 100 people in a single room. Exempt from this order are houses of worship. Why should churches be exempt? Are church members and clerics less likely to contract or pass on the coronavirus? Why should churches be permitted to play by a different set of rules? Evidently, worshipping the sacrosanct First Amendment trumps the physical welfare of all Ohioans. Perhaps Governor DeWine has read the story out of South Korea; the one showing that the members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus are responsible for 60 percent of South Korea’s coronavirus infections? Churches can easily become hotbeds for infections. 

Surely, Governor DeWine doesn’t think that churches will do the right thing and cancel their programs and services for the next three or four weeks. If so, the Governor might want to pay attention to social media, especially the accounts of Ohio Evangelicals and Trump supporters. I have read scores of social media posts that say the COVID-19 pandemic is a hoax; one meant to take down King Trump and his administration. Others suggest that God is sovereign and in control, and Christians need not worry about catching the virus. Never mind the fact that most churches, especially in rural northwest Ohio, have an inordinate number of members who are over the age of 60 and in poor health. Should it really be left to Jesus or the power of prayer to “protect” these people from infection and possible death? I think not. As Vice President Mike Pence quickly learned, prayer is no match for COVID-19.

Some local Evangelicals decided to show they flunked fourth-grade math. According to recently published statistics — and I know the stats on the virus are fluid right now — .1 percent of people die from the flu and 1.0 percent of people die from the coronavirus. How DARE news agencies print hysterical headlines saying that coronavirus is ten times more lethal than the flu, one local genius opined! Well, dumbass, do the math! And even worse, for people who are over sixty and have health problems, the death rate is 8-10 percent. As the sign and the top of this post shows, my wife and I are taking this pandemic seriously. Not panicking, but certainly doing all we can do keep ourselves out of harm’s way. Churches and their leaders must not be given the option of staying open or closing. If all Ohio schools, colleges, and athletic events are closed for the next three weeks, churches should be required to do the same. I would like to think that churches would act responsibly, but when a large segment of our population thinks that “prayer” can cure the virus, we can’t expect them to do the right thing. Irrationality always wins over civic and personal responsibility. This is not about atheism vs. religion. The issue is one of moral and civic responsibility. You know, loving your neighbor as yourself. Do the right thing, pastors, and tell your congregants to stay home until Ohio health officials give the all clear.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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17 Comments

    • Avatar
      Matilda

      Someone who’s a big fan of the pope. told me she was pleased to hear on BBC radio in the UK that the pope had said priests should continue to visit and comfort the sick. I said that was crazy. She always assumes I’m a practising x-tian, albeit of the dodgy protestant variety. She replied ‘What you have to understand is that our priests are unmarried’. I assume she was saying they would get to heaven much quicker…I was trying to think of a way of saying, well if that’s the case, the priest should encourage all his flock to throw themselves under a bus and they’d all get their eternal reward in glory right now.

      • Avatar
        CarolK

        I think what your friend was referring to was the fact that priests don’t have a wife and children to consider. While I think that priests should be able to marry if they wish, there can be advantages of an unencumbered priesthood.

  1. Avatar
    CarolK

    Well, that old huckster James Robison was “healing” people with coronavirus over the TV airwaves yesterday. Not going to do a damn bit of good, James Robison!

  2. Avatar
    missimontana

    I have a strong feeling this will be the undoing of Trump and his minions. They will kill themselves off in the end. All we can do is stay away from them as much as possible.

    • Avatar
      Astreja

      That’s my fear too. As much as it would be nice to have a less erratic person running the show down in the States, even one preventable death is two too many. 🙁

      The combination of misguided religious faith, conspiracy theories run amok, the somewhat warmer climate of the bulk of red states, the paucity of COVID-19 testing and the absolutely daft crisis management from the top is going to be particularly hard on Trump’s base.

  3. Avatar
    Diane

    I could care less if they infect one another and die off. Sadly, they seem to feel obligated to take as many of us with them as they can.

  4. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    Jesus power and soap stop the spread of covid-19……..

    If they are going to shut down all other gatherings, church services should be included. I get that a lot of Christians derive comfort from going to church, but many of these folks are at high risk, and I doubt if they are going to stop “passing the peace” and start remembering to wash their hands.

  5. Avatar
    Brian Vanderlip

    You can do the Skype-church thang, can’t you?
    I work with the health equipment loan branch of Red Cross in Canada and we just got queried about our clothes sizes so we can be issued proper dress and face coverings etc. for the virus challenge.
    Islam is winning! Chant with me: HEEEEEEJAB, HIJAB! Who would have forseen that God would get us all covered up by using a Communist virus from China? And that men would join with women in a Godly equality!
    (Wow, sorry if that is too rude but the tax-free status of hucksterism just gets me going…)

  6. Avatar
    Bob

    Who knows, maybe it has something to do with that Separation of Church and State thing that so many groups are always yelling about. Just a thought.

  7. Avatar
    accidentalwarrior2

    This is the same Governor DeWine who just postponed the Ohio primary? Isn’t that a bit two-faced? I would feel “safe-r” in a voting booth than I would at church. At least at a polling place, we have an option to keep our distance, and I can vote by mail-in ballot if I prefer [I did this, however, I don’t know which states have that option]. My own “church” [I don’t regularly attend anymore due to my own health situation] had a virtual service online at the same time as regular service, and did all the regular things; opening worship songs, welcome, message, invited us to partake in a symbolic “communion” even if it was a cupcake and a can of soda, and a closing worship song. If people really want to participate in that, they are able to do so, even if it’s not with their own congregation at the present time. Assembling is in the heart, a spirit of worship, not a physical presence. We were all encouraged to keep in touch with each other while we are on hiatus, so I don’t see the big problem with not assembling together for corporate worship. This is the modern age, 2020, not 1020, not 1520, not even 1920!!! People are clearly not using their brains. One of my old supervisors used to say “most folks are dorks.” In seeing all this stuff going on these days with hoarding groceries and toilet paper, I now see – more than EVER before – that the man was more of a realist than I ever knew, back in those days [the early 80s]!

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Constitutional rights are not absolute. As any cursory reading of American history reveals, civil liberties have been curtailed or suspended during emergencies/war. Besides, many Evangelicals no longer believe in the separation of church and state or have reinterpreted it to support Christian nationalism. I’m a defender of the separation of church and state. I also don’t want my neighbors getting sick or getting killed all because some dumb ass preacher wants to make a point.

      • Avatar
        Richard Portman

        I live in a small town in southern Utah for 40 years now. I’m thankful that now we vote by mail. For years the polling station was at the home of a respected and much loved old lady and it was an honor and a big deal to participate. After we built a new city building we went there to vote. Still an honor and somewhat of a social event. You could see your neighbors and there were homemade cookies.
        No way would that be safe with this virus because it was always crowded and there was a lot of interaction. The LDS Church has suspended Sunday meetings in their local Wards, supposedly, and i learned today that they are closing their Temples in some areas. I heard today they closed the one in Bountiful.
        Over the years the LDS Church has invited me many times to join them but i won’t have it. But they are not all bad. It made me cry to read the suffering you endured from fanatical bad jesus cults. Ignorance and fear are terrible.

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