What do churches have in common with Florida bars during COVID-19 shutdowns?

Photo of Atlantic Beach, FL by Indie Art South

A headline at one of Jacksonville’s TV network websites announced, “Florida’s top regulator looking at how to open bars safely.” This offers a slim margin of hope to indie musicians who play in bars where no food is served along with alcohol. Those bar owners are, I suspect, barely hanging on right now. I couldn’t dismiss the irony here. Churches in other states now have something big in common with Florida bars.

First Amendment loyalists cringed at a recent US Supreme Court decision whereby Chief Justice John Roberts, appointed by George W. Bush as president, upended the right to free expression. The Hill summed up the outcome of the case:

“The decision comes in response to a suit from Calvary chapel Dayton Valley arguing that it was being treated unfairly compared to casinos, restaurants and amusement parks. Churches in the state have a firm 50-person limit, while other businesses have been told to cut their availability to half of their fire-code capacities.”

Cross photo Indie Art South
Photo by Indie Art South

Churches didn’t win that battle. Roberts joined the left wing of the court in the decision to clamp down on churches and in a further affront, “The court’s order was unsigned and did not provide any reasoning…”

The bars in Florida are apparently in the same boat as the churches in Nevada.

In other words, yes, casinos, restaurants, amusement parks, and protests (permitted or not) are open and not subject to a 50-person limit.

Churches and bars—meh.

Add in the fact that in my lifetime (I am not young), I’ve never witnessed a quarantine applied to healthy people. COVID-19 turned that standard on its head.

At present most media are painting a very negative picture of Florida’s COVID-19 status. What many overlook are comparisons when it comes to fatalities. I say all this with skepticism. One thing we might all agree upon is that trustworthiness of statistics is questionable. All we can do at present is utilize figures reported officially regardless of validity.

As an example, consider the state of Florida as of July 25, 2020 has 5,894 deaths from the virus. As of July, 2019, Florida’s population stood at 21,477,737.

By comparison the much smaller state of Connecticut as of July 24, 2020 has had 4,413 deaths from the virus. Connecticut’s population was 3,565,287 as of July, 2019.

It’s obvious that as time passes, less and less of the COVID-19 phenomena make sense.

Florida’s business regulator told media state officials plan to get together with bar owners to see what can be done.

It strikes me that making people responsible for their own behavior would be a good start.

As for churches, placing restrictions on churches is completely unconstitutional . It’s likely John Roberts knows that, and this makes the court’s decision even more unacceptable. Nothing good will come of this decision, and it will haunt the country’s courts in future.

It is however ironic that churches whose programs are supposed to feed the spirit are in similar straits to bars where different types of spirits pretty much feed the spirit. It is likely churches, indie musicians, and bars will remain in limbo until COVID-19 wanes.

(Kay B. Day/July 27, 2020)

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