"German Reformed Church Pulpit" by Mbrickn / CC BY-SA 4.0

Yes, the government can force churches to close. Here’s why

Mar 24, 2020

By Kelsey Dallas

Faced with new restrictions on in-person gatherings, most houses of worship in the U.S. have temporarily closed their doors.

But some churchessynagogues and mosques have rebelled against requested — or, in some cases, required — changes, and sometimes faced police raids as a result.

Amid a public health crisis like COVID-19, can the government really force a house of worship to close?

Legal experts said the answer is almost certainly yes, as long as regulations are reasonable and applied equally across all religious groups and other types of organizations.

Policies don’t violate religious freedom laws if they’re created in order to save people’s lives, said Michael Moreland, director of the Ellen H. McCullen Center for Law, Religion and Public Policy at Villanova University.

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