How Far Can a Government Limit Religious Freedom

How Far Can a Government Limit Religious Freedom

How far can a government limit religious freedom in the name of fighting the coronavirus (COVID-19) under international law? As the global pandemic continues, many national and local governments are grappling with this question. Religious gatherings are important opportunities for people to practice and share their beliefs, but they are also sites for transmission of COVID-19, endangering not only participants in these gatherings but everyone with whom they interact. Crises require decisive government action, but governments often use times of crisis to encroach on individual freedoms or target minority groups long after the crisis has passed.

Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) guarantees freedom of religion, but also allows governments to narrowly restrict religious freedom by law when necessary to protect a legitimate state interest, including public health. The Siracusa Principles on the Limitation and Derogation Provisions in the ICCPR explains that public health measures that limit rights must be specifically aimed at preventing disease or injury or providing care for the sick and injured.

Given the fundamental nature of freedom of religion or belief, it is subject to fewer restrictions than other rights. Only manifestations of this freedom can be limited, but never holding beliefs itself. Unlike other rights, religious freedom cannot be derogated in times of public emergency, which means that governments must continue to balance this fundamental right even in efforts to combat the impact of the virus. While freedom of religion is not absolute, it also cannot be limited disproportionately, or in a way that discriminates against believers and non-believers or a certain religion or belief. Public health emergencies should also not be used to target or stigmatize certain religious groups.

Anyone remembers Anthony Levardowski? He established a Religious Organization called Way of the Future to “develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence”; that is, “to ‘create an artificial God with Christian Morals. The future of this world is Artificial Intelligence. The antichrist is going to rule this world through Artificial Inteligence. You see what governments are telling their people to do now? “Go home and work from home, you can have your conferences online, churches, schools are now operating through online. Isn’t that amazing? And is the church seeing all these? Everything is through the internet. They have succeeded to bring us to a point where we humans do not have any contact as they continue to promote this social distancing and now we are addicted to their new god which is Artificial Intelligence especially now that 5G is about to be launched. Data now becomes the breath of our lives; ladies and gentlemen this is not going to change any day soon. When they have made you to become so used to AI, my God! You want to go to worship, you have to go through the internet, you want to go shopping you have to go through the internet. 

Levandowski believes that a change is coming a change that will transform every aspect of human existence, disrupting employment, leisure, religion, the economy, and possibly decide our very survival as a species.

He continues to say, “With the internet as its nervous system, the world’s connected cell phones and sensors as its sense organs, and data centers as its brain, the ‘whatever’ will hear everything, see everything, and be everywhere at all times. The only rational word to describe that ‘whatever’, thinks Levandowski, is ‘god’—and the only way to influence a deity is through prayer and worship.” Inside The First Church of Artificial Inteligence.

Will the Church manage with the conditions that them themselves have set through Interfaith Committee? I doubt. Churches, especially in rural areas, slums do not have enormous amounts of money, and putting directed safety measures in place will be a challenge. Not all churches have the space to allow the required physical distancing between 100 people. So the churches are really going to be careful and mindful of how they proceed. Already Pastors running small churches are up in arms with the restrictions. Will the Mega churches police the small churches to ensure they follow the set rules?

A few of the churches have received the news with some caution some even deciding not to open but continue with the online services. To quote one pastor, she says? “…It will hurt many to turn them away at the door and we cannot take temperature at the door and tell the sick to go away. So, we will remain patient and keep ministering online. This too shall pass! God’s house will be called a house of prayer for all Nations. We cannot defile it with worldly ways of handling a holy gathering. Peace is always God’s way of saying proceed. Noah didn’t leave the ark until God said it was ok. So we will remain in this space of waiting upon the Lord. Even here, He is Lord.”

With hospitals full of patients, the government will not be able to provide places of worship with the necessary PPE and sanitisers as it is already under pressure. Only the Mega churches will be able to afford the PPE’s Isolation areas and even to social distance, for the rest, I’m seeing them closing.

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