The Threat to Close Synagogues and Churches

“You only have power over people as long as you don’t take everything away from them. But when you’ve robbed a man of everything, he’s no longer in your power—he’s free again.” Alexander Solzhenitsyn~

In Brooklyn, New York, this week. 2,500 people crowded together to pay tribute to a beloved rabbi who passed away.

Some wore face masks; some did not. New York’s infuriated mayor came in person to tell the people to go home. Then he issued a statement:

“My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed. I have instructed the NYPD to proceed immediately to summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups. This is about stopping this disease and saving lives. Period.”

Fair enough, if that’s so–and if those consequences are fairly applied. But is it really just about stopping the disease and saving lives? Or is it, perhaps, also about power and authority? Is it even about disdain for a particular faith or group?

One councilmember, Chaim Deutsch, chided DeBlasio for not applying the rule of law evenly.

“Did the Mayor of NYC really just single out one specific ethnic community (a community that has been the target of increasing hate crimes in HIS city) as being noncompliant?? Has he been to a park lately?”

All of America–especially those of us who are working at staying home–could discuss whether deBlasio overreacted in showing up and calling on police.

We could wonder whether–if other New Yorkers are defying the rules as Deutsch claims and evidence shows they are–why this gathering got the mayor’s personal attention the way it did. We could also ask why the mayor and the media picked this incident to highlight and not another one earlier that day.

Why didn’t the mayor go downtown and tweet his protest as New Yorkers gathered to watch the Blue Angels fly over the city in tribute to health care workers who have toiled through the worst of the pandemic?

I would argue that, sad as they were over the loss of their beloved rabbi, the people should not have gathered for his funeral. But I would also argue that deBlasio crossed the line when he threatened places of worship with permanent closure if they do not comply.

Permanent, that is.

I might also argue that perhaps many of those 2,500 people watched coverage of the Blue Angels’ flyover earlier in the day and didn’t realize a double standard was in place.

They didn’t realize that ordinary folks could come out to watch a tribute. The rules don’t apply to them. But faithful people may not gather. The rules are especially for them.

And violating the rules will bring about retribution for those singled out. And that retribution could be permanent.

Joel M. Petlin is the superintendent of the Kiryus Joel School District, a Hasidic Jewish school system in New York. He summed the situation up on Twitter: “Two wrongs don’t make a right, but only one wrong makes the news and the condemnation of politicians.”

Mayor de Blasio is an educated man. He can’t possibly believe that the coronavirus passes from person to person in certain groups and not in others. He can’t possibly believe that letting people gather for an event he approves of won’t spread the virus. But events he disapproves of will.

He can’t possibly believe that the actions of some should forever close the doors of worship for many, even those yet unborn.

That just can’t be possible.

Can it?

Photo Credit: Unsplash

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20 Replies to “The Threat to Close Synagogues and Churches”

  1. Interesting thoughts. I paused and wondered as I watched video of various gatherings. How many people would be sick soon? I’ll be glad when this virus is gone.

  2. We live in such divided times where rules are not applied fairly to everyone. But, we knew these times would come. ““I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.””
    ‭‭John‬ ‭16:33‬ ‭NIV‬‬. Thanks for reminding us.

  3. You picked apart the hypocrisy in DeBlasio’s position quite well. It’s irrational to think that one group of persons should be allowed to gather for an occasion like a Blue Angel flyover while another group of people cannot gather because this particular group are people of faith, Jews, to be exact. By now, one would think that the mistreatment of people from Jesus’ family tree would have passed, but it continues. This must stop.

  4. Ms. Nancy; Well thought out and insightful post ma’am. Enjoyed this very much, as it (for me) points out the worldly double-standard that so many want to deny exists. It’s important to remember that while we are foreigners in this land, this world is no longer our home. We are the “aliens” in this fallen world, so some hostility toward us should be expected. What isn’t, and what hurts the most for me, is to see self-proclaiming Christians who fail to recognize that anything that happens in this life should mean little in the grand scheme of eternity. This isn’t to say we should live without regard for our human lives, but we should obey our conscience, our values, and our God more than man. Each person who attended the funeral made a choice. They assessed their personal and family’s risk and decided paying their respects to a much-admired clergyman was worth it. To me that’s what God’s freedom ensure us. The inalienable right to choose. God’s blessings for this thought-provoking post ma’am.

    1. I heard yesterday, that the synagogue officials applied for and received approval for the gathering from the city. Unconscionable hypocrisy. Everything we do matters. Every moral decision we make matters. Some day we will understand just how much. Thank you, JD. God bless!

  5. The so called standards and not at all. There is such confusion everywhere. Beaches open. Parks closed. It is maddening. Thanks for your post. Thought provoking for sure.

  6. I certainly hope the mayor was making an empty threat. Thank you, Nancy!

  7. These are eye-opening points, Nancy. It often seems like the rule of law is not applied evenly. I watched an interesting news video of two ER doctors who said some of the reports during this virus are not accurate. And this is about control more than anything.

    1. I agree with that, Karen. Like the governor of Maine ordering all churches closed through the whole summer. I hope she gets some pushback on that. Thanks for commenting. God bless!

  8. Great post, Nancy. Well argued, and flows very well.

    In the United States, isn’t it unconstitutional for the government to pass any law that infringes upon freedom of religion? How can it be constitutional for the government to shut down churches, even during a pandemic?

    I think churches should be allowed to open while maintaining a 6 feet social distancing rule.

    1. That would be difficult to do at many churches. But people would have options. I don’t object to my church going to online services during the worst of this–but the governor of Maine shutting all churches THROUGH THE SUMMER is vindictive and unconstitutional. Does she have a crystal ball to see ahead to July and August? Thanks, Christopher. God bless!

  9. Some of these subtle decisions have slipped under the rug of people’s minds in an effort to keep everyone safe. But it is important to point out when the rules only apply to some. Especially a particular group who has been singled out for oppression and persecution. Lord Jesus, help us navigate this deceitful and difficult time!

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