More than 25 Faith Groups Oppose Legislation Establishing Religious Exemptions to Emergency Orders

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April 12, 2021

Manisha Sunil, West End Strategy Team; Phone: 202-417-0171

More than 25 Faith Groups Oppose Legislation Establishing Religious Exemptions to Emergency Orders

WASHINGTON — In times of crisis faith communities have an obligation to protect public health and safety, argues an interfaith coalition. In a joint statement released today, more than 25 denominations and religious organizations, led by Interfaith Alliance, denounced the recent proliferation of legislation exempting religious gatherings from emergency public health orders.

“Religious freedom is a fundamental American value, and the freedom to worship in accordance with one’s spiritual practices and traditions is a right of the highest order,” reads the statement. “At the same time, religious freedom does not demand tying the hands of public officials who are trying to safeguard public health as they respond to unforeseen events like pandemics, natural disasters and other emergencies. Indeed, all of our denominations have found creative ways to provide opportunities for worship during the pandemic, recognizing the spiritual sustenance and sense of community that religious practices provide.”

Even as many communities have adapted their practices to protect public health, some continue to challenge temporary limits on in-person events under the guise of religious freedom. Days before the letter’s release, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a victory to a California pastor challenging the state’s guidelines – which restrict at-home gatherings that impact religious and secular activities alike – as a burden on religion.

“As our nation begins to recover from the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, faith leaders have an opportunity to lead by example. Our experiences over the past year can inform the proactive steps needed to keep our communities safe and build our resilience,” said Katy Joseph, director of policy & advocacy for Interfaith Alliance. “This statement, alongside persistent advocacy by faith leaders before all levels of government, makes abundantly clear that the vast majority of religious communities are committed to working in partnership to promote our shared safety – even as some seek special exemptions.”

The full statement can be found here and is joined by: ADL (Anti-Defamation League); Alliance of Baptists; American Baptist Home Mission Societies; Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty; Baptist Women In Ministry; Bend the Arc: Jewish Action; Central Conference of American Rabbis; Cooperative Baptist Fellowship; Disciples Center for Public Witness; Disciples Justice Action Network; Equal Partners in Faith; Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Fellowship Southwest; Interfaith Alliance; KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights; Men of Reform Judaism; Methodist Federation for Social Action; Muslim Advocates; National Council of Churches; National Council of Jewish Women; Presbyterian Church (USA), Office of Public Witness; Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association; Union for Reform Judaism; Unitarian Universalist Association; Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice; United Church of Christ, Justice and Local Church Ministries; Women of Reform Judaism.

If you are interested in speaking further with Interfaith Alliance on this issue, please contact Manisha Sunil at (202) 417-0171 or