In a reassuring announcement as the nation’s governors and local authorities cancel and forbid church services willy nilly, Attorney General William P. Barr said on April 9 that the Justice Department will scrutinize emergency efforts to restrict religious liberty after the threat from the deadly coronavirus recedes.
Some of those governors and local officials might wish that they had simply suggested or recommended curtailing services, rather than issuing dictatorial edicts about who is allowed to do what when, and with whom.
“We are going to keep an eye on all these actions that restrict people’s liberty,” he said in an interview with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, as reported by the Washington Times.
Mr. Barr said the government has the power to restrict liberties, including the freedom to gather and worship during very serious emergencies, but those limits must be balanced against citizens’ constitutional rights.
Localities across the country have closed churches and other houses of worship to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Some states have banned gatherings of ten or more people, effectively shuttering religious gatherings.
“A free society depends on a vibrant religious life by the people,” Mr. Barr said. “So any time that’s encroached upon by the government, I’m very, very concerned.”
“I would hate to see restrictions on religion continue longer than they are strictly necessary,” he continued.