The fact that we are even having this debate scares the hell out of me, but here we are in 2020 discussing whether state and local governments have the authority under the Constitution to tell you you cannot attend religious services due to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.

Really?

Under the guise that it knows what is best for us, the government is denying us the right to freely assemble so that we might worship as we choose. This government overreach is in clear violation of our very basic God-given, unalienable right to religious liberty. It is also a clear violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States:

“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.”

I engaged with a number of friends on this topic on social media over the weekend and was stunned that most were willing to sacrifice certain rights for their own protection – or because that's what the government told them was best. Benjamin Franklin once said, "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

The question is not whether going to church is wise or safe. It's not even about whether you would choose to attend a religious service at this time. The issue is whether the government has the authority to make that decision for you. I agree with the Founding Fathers that it does not.

Americans have been told for weeks where and when they can go and in what numbers based upon some arbitrary decision made by elected officials in state capitols across the nation. These restrictions on your movements and on free commerce are unprecedented. If we can cram safely into Walmart on Easter Sunday, why not church?

Americans need to be concerned about how quickly we have surrendered our rights to the bureaucrats simply because they say it's in our best interest, or we run the risk of rendering the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights as meaningless.

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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