“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” — The First Amendment to the United States Constitution

On June 21, 1788, the Constitution became the framework of the government of the United States of America. Three and a half years later on December 15, 1791, 10 of the first 12 proposed amendments to the Constitution were ratified and became known as the Bill of Rights. The First Amendment guarantees some pretty fundamental rights such as your right to free speech and your right to worship as you choose without government interference.

The recent COVID-19 crisis has seen state and local governments all across the country trample all over your rights. They interfered with your right to freely practice your religion, first by closing houses of worship and then by imposing strict limitations on attendance.

The First Amendment does not state that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" unless there is a virus and the governor and the mayor decide you shouldn't go to church. It doesn't say that anywhere.

On Friday, a sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court, in a very controversial 5-4 decision that was overshadowed by the anarchism and chaos that has gripped our major cities, ruled that government can impose limits on crowd size at our houses of worship during this crisis. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that government restrictions "appear consistent" with the First Amendment. Roberts further stated that similar or more severe limits apply to concerts, movies, and sporting events “where large groups of people gather in close proximity for extended periods of time.”

The Chief Justice needs a road map to common sense if he cannot figure out the difference between a desire to attend a concert, movie or sporting event, and the need for Americans to practice their religion. Many folks turn to their religion during times of crisis and this is certainly one of those times.

Justice Roberts and the four liberal appointees to the U.S. Supreme Court got this one wrong and will answer to a higher authority for this misstep.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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