Are Shelter in Place Orders Violating Americans’ Constitutional Rights?

In an effort to help flatten the curve, many states have begun to enforce shelter in place or stay at home orders on their residents.  While in theory, this is only to ensure the spread of Covid-19 does not continue to increase, it has also raised ethical questions in the minds of many Americans.  

Many wonder if these orders have been taken to extremes, leading law enforcement to abuse power.  Some have even likened the current scheme of events to Nazi Germany when citizens were required to produce papers to travel from place to place.  These types of situations have sprung up all over the nation with churches being fined for gathering, essential workers being asked to produce documentation as such for why they are traveling, with some people even being thrown into a holding cell for the mere act of taking a drive.  This all begs the question of how far is too far?

A breach in religious freedoms has proved highly problematic for many pastors and parishioners that believe their constitutional rights have been violated when members of the community risk exposure each time they go to a grocery store.  Many feel convicted by God to continue meeting together while following social distancing guidelines, yet local authorities continue to fight against such gatherings.

This was the case in Greenville, Mississippi when parishioners at the King James Baptist Church decided to hold a drive-in service, despite recent bans on all in person church services.  The pastor believed he was not violating orders and fulfilling his God ordained duty continuing services in a drive through fashion that included members staying in their cars, distancing, and even keeping their windows rolled up.  Thus, the church could meet without risk of exposure.  

Law enforcement did not see things this way, arriving on scene where windows where knocked on, letting families know they would either immediately leave the premises or face a $500.00 fine.  This all seemed a bit extreme to those who had not even exited their vehicles.

In California, several lawsuits have been filed with charges that the governor’s orders breach their constitutional rights of freedom of religion and assembly.  In a state that does not deem churches as essential, many are frustrated that liquor stores and marijuana shops remain open as essential businesses during this season of social distancing.  

Churches are crying out for the right to meet together in ways that honor social distancing.  As of now, no provision has been made to address the gray issues of stay at home orders. Government officials continue to be tasked with making the difficult decisions of what is essential and what is not, while protecting their citizens.  Many people question, at what cost?