GATES: Yes, Mr. President, Churches are definitely essential

On Friday, President Donald Trump declared churches and other places of worship “essential” and urged that governors allow them to reopen:

Thank you very much. At my direction, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is issuing guidance for communities of faith. I want to thank Dr. Redfield and the CDC for their work on this matter and all the other work they’ve been doing over the past what now seems like a long period of time. Today I’m identifying houses of worship, churches, synagogue and mosques as essential places that provide essential services. Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential, but have left out churches and other houses of worship. It’s not right. So I’m correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential. I call upon governors to allow our churches and places of worship to open right now.

The CDC provided interim guidance for faith based communities, which urged pretty standard suggestions like social distancing, washing hands, staying home if you’re sick, and wearing face masks.  Most churches I’ve spoken with have been encouraging these things, although it is reported that the Baptists are pledging to use only non-alcoholic hand sanitizer.  (Yeah, it’s a joke, and it’s pretty funny!)

We think it’s about time.  Governors and mayors, including our own John Bel Edwards, have attempted to stifle worship throughout the nation.  Courts have, for the most part, consistently beaten back these attempts.  Perhaps most famously, a Federal Judge in Kentucky struck down the attempt by the Mayor of Louisville to ban drive-in Easter services, finding it “‘beyond all reason’ unconstitutional.”

Further, putting aside the First Amendment reasons for declaring religious exercise “essential,” the facts show that it is essential.  Studies have, for a number of years, revealed the benefits of attending worship services.  A 2017 study by Professor Marino Bruce, of Vanderbilt University, found that people who attend services at a church, synagogue or mosque are less stressed and live longer.  “Our findings support the overall hypothesis that increased religiosity – as determined by attendance at worship services – is associated with less stress and enhanced longevity,” said Professor Bruce.

According to the AARP, a new large study of more than 6,000 adults age 50 and older and living in Ireland by The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) at Trinity College Dublin found that individuals who regularly attend religious services have fewer depressive symptoms than those who consider religion important but who don’t worship frequently.

A 2018 TIME article also highlighted the health benefits of attending church:

A number of studies have shown associations between attending religious services and living a long time. One of the most comprehensive, published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2016, found that women who went to any kind of religious service more than once a week had a 33% lower chance than their secular peers of dying during the 16-year study-follow-up period. Another study, published last year in PLOS One, found that regular service attendance was linked to reductions in the body’s stress responses and even in mortality–so much so that worshippers were 55% less likely to die during the up to 18-year follow-up period than people who didn’t frequent the temple, church or mosque.

Thus, from a purely scientific point, attending church can be essential for maintaining one’s health, both physical and mental.

Of course, the left went wild.  Fake News sites attempted to spin the President’s remarks as best they could, and their results were amusing:

It is interesting that CNN didn’t lead with any argument that this was a bad policy idea or that it might lead to increased exposure (which are the normal talking points against opening places of worship).  Instead, they resorted to their usual m.o. and attacked the messenger.

President Trump was right to make the statement.  Hopefully his threat will encourage governors and mayors to do the right thing and allow the faithful to worship in peace, as our Founders intended.


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