Contrary to the letter from Donnabelle Richtsmeier, our Supreme Court was correct to overturn New York’s restriction on the size of religious gatherings. (See copy of letter below.)
The 1st Amendment to the Constitution reads in part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” The 14th Amendment reads in part, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States…” So, states cannot violate our federal constitutional rights.
No exception is made to allow our governments to violate our constitutional rights because of a pandemic. If that were true, what limit would there be on our government’s response to a pandemic?
The statement in the preamble of the Constitution, “promote the general welfare“ does not grant any specific power to our government. If we gave our government the power to do anything that would promote the general welfare, there would be no limit on our government. Our Constitution establishes a government with limited, enumerated powers. Restricting the exercise of religion is strictly prohibited.
Donnabelle Richtsmeier’s letter to the Des Moines Register:
I was astonished to learn that the Supreme Court ruled against the lower courts and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s COVID-19 restrictions that included limits on religious gatherings in places of worship. The justices certainly did not take into account current scientific evidence and advice from public health authorities that such measures could help stop the spread of the virus.
The Supreme Court is no longer a bipartisan group of judges whose job it is to interpret the Constitution in a fair and just way. It is a group bent on promoting their own philosophies and politics. In their ruling, they forgot the phrase in the preamble to the Constitution that states “promote the general welfare.” Certainly, efforts to protect citizens from COVID-19 is promoting the general welfare of the citizens of not only New York but the entire United States.
The framers of the Constitution wanted to guarantee religious freedom giving citizens the right to worship in ways suited to them, free from harassment or harm. The Supreme Court really took this out of context. Limiting the size of religious gatherings during this severe pandemic is in no way an attack on the freedom of religion. It is a way to protect the health of citizens and to save lives. The justices must put aside their individual prejudices and become a bipartisan group working together to uphold the Constitution in order to “form a more perfect union.” If they can’t do this, maybe it is time for some changes.
— Donnabelle Richtsmeier, Des Moines