Government should not be persecuting people of faith
By Steve Smotherman
SENIOR PASTOR, LEGACY CHURCH
According to a recent Danish study, Christians are the most persecuted people on earth. But the United States, founded largely by Christians whose ancestors fled religious persecution, should be the last place where such persecution is tolerated, let alone led by the state.
Through every crisis in our history, the church was called upon to step up. Every crisis, that is, until the current pandemic.
The very first thing our governor said, back when the degree of severity for COVID-19 was not yet so clear and estimated to be much worse, was “… don’t go to Church.” What followed was a case of doubling down on a flawed initial response.
We attempted to “render unto Caesar” and take our services online. But we had to take the state to court to even be granted the “privilege” of enough staff to do that in a building that can host thousands.
It was reported we did not prevail in our initial court case, but every concession by the state was clearly made in response to our objections. Even the order in which our rights were bestowed back to us came in the exact same order in which we presented them.
Without our protest for our rights, indeed everyone’s rights, we would be in an even more extreme state of arbitrary and destructive repression. And we could never really bring ourselves to close, since not everyone we serve at Legacy had the means to livestream. Some kept showing up at our doors.
Our membership includes the full spectrum of our community, and gathering in his name is their lifeline to a life free of the drugs, abuse and despair they had otherwise known. We could never turn them away.
Meanwhile, mass gathering of “politically correct” protests were endorsed by the governor, who led from a position of hypocrisy since she could shop for jewelry, travel and get her hair done while businesses that provided these services to us were closed.
State-favored business, such as the film industry, could also have a separate set of rules to abide by. Big-box stores, open. Locally owned businesses, however, didn’t have the political clout.
For some months now, we have been holding “peaceful protests,” especially on Sundays. We post notices on our marquees and at our doors specifying that coming to worship and serve God and our community is nothing less than an ongoing protest against practically murderous repression.
But somehow our protests, not being politically correct, are grounds for retribution.
All it takes is for a social media mob to coalesce, as it did in response to our midnight Christmas Eve protest, and the state is sure to react in whatever direction the mob wants — like the Salem witch trials in cyberspace.
You want to tell the asthmatic person, or the vet with PTSD, they have to wear a mask? Knock yourself out, governor. We are not sworn officers of the police state.
Make no mistake about it, the lockdowns have had one entirely predictable result, to drive people back to despair, addiction and violence. Our social service teams have been working overtime to help people through this twoweek- turned-10-month nightmare.
And we continue to deliver hundreds of weekly food boxes to those who are most vulnerable and isolated.
At Legacy, some of us do indeed wear masks, and we offer them at our entrances. But we believe as responsible adults each individual should be free to decide how best to conduct themselves.
The state, meanwhile, has failed most spectacularly in its initial twoweeks nonsense and at every turn since.
We look forward to our next days in court and pray we’ll be able to continue serving those hardest hit by ham-handed government, as well as by the virus itself.