Last Sunday, evangelical church leaders in several American states went ahead with services despite the potential threat of spreading the virus.
Back then, the Trump administration was still touting the fantasy of churches being full at Easter. The administration made an abrupt about face on Monday, when they were presented with stark projections that between 100,000 to 240,000 Americans could die from the virus in the next few months.
At that point, Trump extended the physical distancing guidelines to April 30. At the state level, though, some governors have undermined those efforts by exempting church services from the guidelines.
Generally, the governors that have done so head states where evangelical Christians are a major support base. And evangelicals have aggressively pushed back against any restrictions on their “freedom” to hold services.
Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis is the most prominent “leader” to crumble, but officials in states such as Michigan, New Mexico, Delaware, Ohio, Texas and West Virginia have also granted various exemptions for religious services.
If it was just a matter of “worshippers” risking their own health and well-being by gathering in large groups today, I guess that would be up to them. But of course once the services are over they will leave their churches and circulate in their communities, which puts everyone at risk.
In addition to the lives at stake, there’s also the economic harm that could result should any of the services end up being super-spreader events that prolong and intensify the outbreak.
Given the toxic nature of right-wing evangelical Christianity these days, and the need for the movement’s leaders to keep the pews (and their coffers) full, their determination to hold Sunday services is no real surprise. But it’s still reckless and irresponsible.
A MESSAGE TO OUR READERS The coronavirus pandemic is a moment of reckoning for our community. We’re all hurting. It’s no different at Prairie Dog, where COVID-19 has wiped out advertisements for events, businesses and restaurants as Regina and Saskatchewan hunker down in quarantine. As an ad-supported newspaper already struggling in a destabilized media landscape, this is devastating. We’re hoping you, our loyal readers, can help fill in the gap so Prairie Dog can not only continue to exist but even expand our coverage — both in print and online. Please consider donating, either one-time or, even better, on a monthly basis.
We believe Prairie Dog's unique voice is needed, now more than ever. For 27 years, this newspaper has been a critical part of Regina’s social, cultural and democratic infrastructure. Don’t let us fade away. There’s only one Prairie Dog. If it’s destroyed, it’s never coming back.