Wu-Tang Clan rapped how “Cash rules everything around me,” and the same is true for the houses of God.
Like it or not, churches today are small — and in some cases not so small — businesses.
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron has threatened to sue Gov. Andy Beshear over the ban on in-person church service. Cameron and a handful of other, mostly Republican, church leaders have spent the last month talking about how Beshear’s order is unconstitutional.
These are not the church leaders who have taken their services online or conducted drive-in services, or, in some cases, simply canceled services for the time being. These leaders are ensuring the safety of their congregations. However, a very small percentage is demanding in-person meetings, which endangers not only their congregation but the communities as a whole.
The constitutionality of the order is clear as mud. While the First Amendment protects the concept of separation of church and state, it’s isn’t clear if those protections extend to in-person services.
“There’s not much precedent to go on here,” said Josh Blackman, who teaches constitutional law at South Texas College of Law in Houston, in an interview with ABC news.
I don’t want to wade too far into the muddy waters of the legality of the issue. But, in the past, the Supreme Court has ruled a law must “unduly burden” a specific religion unless there is a “compelling interest” to do so, and that burden has to be applied to secular institutions equally.
I want to focus on the reason for the request.
The cold hard truth about their demands is cold hard cash.
Before we go too far down this road, I want to disclose something … I am, without doubt, the black sheep, lost soul of my family. My brother is ordained in the Alliance Baptist Church, serves as a chaplain and graduated seminary from Emory University. My mother was a United Methodist minister and a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary. My father is managing director for church relations at Wespath Benefits and Investments, which was the Global Board of Pensions and Benefits for all the United Methodist churches in the world before they expanded by opening up to other denominations to join.
And then there’s me: Marine, fine art major, journalist and photographer. Not a church job in sight; never took a religious course in college much less went to seminary. That being said, I’m not opposed to religion as a concept — just some religious people. I think a majority of Christians do good work trying to better the world around them. It’s the small percentage that screams the loudest, and usually screams the dumbest, with whom I take issue.
And those are the people screaming about “But muh rights! I demand you open my church right now.”
These aren’t the people wanting to return to church but understand now is not the time.
Growing up in church we sang about how “they’ll know we are Christians by our love” not “they’ll know we are Christians by our pouts.”
We learned the church was made of the parishioners, not the bricks and mortar. Jesus said “For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them,” not “All y’all need to be in the pew for me to show up.”
There are lots of verses about helping your neighbor, providing assistance and doing the right thing even when it’s not the easy thing. And what’s easier than staying home?
But some ministers, and I use that term loosely, are demanding to meet in person. I grew up being taught the church was the people, not the building. And yet, they are claiming the church isn’t the church without people in the building.
They are claiming they are “not a business for tax purposes” but must be able to meet in person to stay in (not a) business.
At the end of the day, churches have light bills to pay, they have water bills to pay and they have salaries to pay. And all of these take money.
Let me clarify: I understand, pastors have to eat and pay bills like anyone else.
My family is paid because of the business of churches, but you know where they’ve been? At home (my dad in Chicago and my brother in Atlanta). Neither has been complaining about not getting to go to church. Not because they don’t want to go — they do — but because they’ve been making sure everyone stays safe. My dad can’t wait to get to heaven to be with my mother and other members of his family, but he’s not doing things to hasten his reunion or anyone else’s for that matter.
MATT JONES is a page designer and photographer for The Daily Independent. Reach him at email@example.com.