National Religious Broadcasters

NRB Thanks Senators for Urging POTUS to Ensure First Amendment Fairness for Churches

WASHINGTON (NRB) – NRB, the world’s pre-eminent association of Christian broadcasters and communicators representing millions of listeners, viewers, and readers worldwide, thanks the 10 U.S. senators who recently sent a letter to President Trump, asking him to do everything in his power to prevent state and local governments from discriminating against Americans seeking to exercise their First Amendment right to practice their religion.

The letter, spearheaded by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), was signed by Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

“We thank these senators for calling out the discriminatory actions that we’re seeing in various states and localities that are imposing special restrictions on religious activity that do not apply to similar nonreligious activity,” said NRB CEO Troy Miller.

“Even as we’re seeing people across the nation freely exercise the First Amendment right to peaceably assemble amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and violent protests going unchecked, we’re seeing special restrictions on the First Amendment right of faithful Americans to exercise their religion – even when done in compliance with safety precautions found in CDC guidance,” he added. “State and local governments should not be allowed to single out people of faith in such a blatantly unfair manner.”

In their letter, the senators urged the President to support proposals in Congress to place restrictions on any forthcoming COVID-19 relief funding to states and localities that prevent churches, houses of worship, and religious schools and institutions from reopening with appropriate CDC implemented guidelines.

“Such executive action would send the nation and government leaders a clear and unequivocal message that religious liberty matters, and that no state or locality can unilaterally strip away protected constitutional rights,” they said.

On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court decided 5-4 to deny a Las Vegas church’s application for injunctive relief against the Governor of Nevada’s directive that limits houses of worship to a capacity of no more than 50 people while casinos and other favored facilities may admit up to 50% of their maximum capacity.

In his dissent, Justice Samuel Alito noted that restrictions on religious exercise that are not “neutral and of general applicability” must survive strict scrutiny.

“The idea that allowing Calvary Chapel to admit 90 worshippers presents a greater public health risk than allowing casinos to operate at 50% capacity is hard to swallow,” he wrote, “and the State’s efforts to justify the discrimination are feeble.”

“[T]he State has made no effort to show that Calvary Chapel’s plans would create a serious public health risk,” he later concluded.