FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Concerns mount that Pennsylvanians will be needlessly endangered by the loophole in Governor Wolf’s stay-at-home order exempting religious institutions.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – April 26, 2020
Pittsburgh Freethought Community (PFC) members point out that one-third of all COVID cases in one large California county can be traced to church services. It has also been reported that one infected person attending church services in South Korea accounted for at least 60 percent of all COVID-19 cases in that country.
Quoting the Freedom from Religion Foundation, PFC President and Board Chair Dana Morganroth points out that “religious freedom does not require exempting churches from these orders. Second, such exemptions themselves unconstitutionally favor churches. Third, these exemptions are immoral and deadly. There is no legal reason to exempt churches from these orders. Americans have rights to worship and to assemble, but neither of those rights is unlimited and neither includes the right to risk other peoples’ lives. Our First Amendment rights are limited. Freedom of speech does not include defamation or true threats. Political speech—a quintessential example of constitutionally protected speech—is even limited near polling places. Free assembly, and the free exercise of religion, are similarly limited.”
Secularists are not alone in calling for this loophole to be eliminated. Leaders of both First Liberty Institute and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary have together written “Mandatory social distancing is not a threat to religious liberty. It’s essential for humanity.” They further write, “asking houses of worship to briefly suspend large gatherings is neither hostile toward religion nor unreasonable in light of the threat. Rather, this is a time for all of us to exercise prudence over defiance.”
PFC, a 501(c)(3) community benefit organization has 2700+ stakeholders in southwestern PA who strive to promote science, reason, humanist values and – of utmost importance during the current Coronavirus pandemic – evidence-based public policy.
The Community’s recent letter sent to Governor Wolf closes with a personal appeal: “Governor Wolf, please modify Pennsylvania’s critical stay-at-home order to include churches and other religious gatherings. The very lives of your family, and our families, and all others in the Commonwealth may indeed be at greater risk without this action. “
Pittsburgh Freethought Community is a growing community with over 2700 stakeholders in western Pennsylvania (https://pghfreethought.org/). We represent a large cross-section of young and old adults who support our three-fold mission:
• To be a welcoming and caring community for all those who share a humanist worldview and an evidence-based perspective;
• To provide a strong and respected public voice for the secular humanist community in shaping public debate and formulating public policy;
• To promote science, reason, critical thinking, and humanist values in the greater Pittsburgh area.
PFC brings together local freethinkers, including members of many national freethought groups including the Freedom from Religion Foundation, American Humanist Association, Center for Inquiry, American Atheists, Secular Coalition for America, and Sunday Assembly.