By Chrissy Stroop
If you’d asked me even two months ago what the next issue or event to spark acrimonious church-state conflict was likely to be, I doubt global pandemic would have even crossed my mind. And yet, in retrospect, it seems all too predictable. America is a country, after all, in which megachurch leaders make headlines for declaring that a tragically dead two-year-old child will be resurrected. It’s a country in which far too many Christians prefer to address mental health via demonology rather than modern psychology and psychiatry. A country in which I experienced the heartbreak not only of watching a family friend die slowly of cancer, but also of seeing the friend’s family devastated at not receiving the miraculous healing they declared would certainly come.
We should thus be unsurprised that radical charismatic Protestants are among the most vocal Americans defying the public health measures recommended by the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and implemented to varying degrees by state and local governments across these United States. Alas, our country is #blessed with a clunky federalism that exacerbates our ongoing crisis of democracy, and the lack of quick and consistent federal and presidential guidance on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic is surely making matters worse.
Indeed, Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan recently expressed exasperation with the coronavirus crisis, saying: “We’re all building the airplane as we fly it right now.” Whitmer has been under fire from liberals for caving to Republican pressure to clarify that religious organizations are exempted from restrictions on large gatherings in Michigan. While admonishing the public that staying home from church is best, Whitmer maintains that the constitutional principle of separation of church and state prevents her from enforcing restrictions on large gatherings organized by houses of worship.
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