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Texas Senator Ted Cruz Says Politicians Who Want to Keep Churches Closed “Hate Faith”

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Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas on Thursday said that progressive elected officials who are issuing orders to curb the spread of COVID-19 that restrict churches but not secular entities do so because they “hate faith.”

On an episode of “First Liberty Live!” streamed online by the First Liberty Institute on Thursday, Cruz spoke about constitutional rights and states’ lockdown orders that were initially put in place to ensure hospitals were not overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients but have been extended by some state governors and mayors.

Cruz said he believed “crisis reveals character” and as a result, Americans were seeing some politicians act as “jack-booted authoritarians” by going after religious groups.

“It’s one thing to put reasonable public health restrictions in place, it’s another thing to arbitrarily trample on liberty,” Cruz said.

The senator argued that “there are these politicians on the left who hate faith, who have a demonstrable antipathy to people of faith, to Christians, to observant Jews, to anyone for whom faith is anything real and tangible in their lives.”

He cited as an example New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his controversial comments in which he said he would permanently close down any church found in violation of the city’s gathering restrictions.

“De Blasio repeatedly has demonstrated an over-eagerness, a zealousness to target people of faith,” Cruz said.

“No tin-pot mayor has the power to permanently close down any church or any synagogue, and the fact that they are licking their lips trying to put a padlock on the church demonstrates that level of antipathy.”

Cruz also defended drive-in church, in which congregations gather in parked cars practicing social distancing in worship, denouncing the efforts of some to close such services down.

In Massena, New York, Pastor Samson Ryman was warned that he would face a fine of up to $1,000 for holding a drive-in church service on May 3 with 23 worshipers in 18 vehicles, which the chief of police said was a violation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s COVID-19 Executive Orders. Last week, Cuomo said churches can begin hosting drive-in worship services as long as they follow “strict social distancing guidelines.”

In April, the Department of Justice intervened after authorities in Greenville, Mississippi, fined attendees at a drive-in church service $500 each for purported violations while permitting citizens to attend nearby drive-in restaurants.

Cruz said such efforts to punish attendees of such services “absurd” and criticized it as an example of “targeting and singling out people of faith because they are people of faith.”

“There is no coherent constitutional argument that a massage parlor or a bar is somehow more protected, more constitutional privileged, more sacred, more worthy of legal protection than a church service,” Cruz said.

Cruz also talked about how his church has put a halt on in-person worship for three months, so he and his family watch worship services on Zoom instead.

In addition to Cruz, the episode also featured comments from First Liberty Institute President & CEO Kelly Shackelford, whose organization hosted the livestream.

Shackelford explained that when it comes to the debate over churches reopening, “the good news is in most places, churches who want to can open up safely.”

“We’re going to have to fight in some places,” said Shackelford, noting that there are “petty tyrants” who want to keep church buildings closed until a COVID-19 vaccine is developed, which he said is “unacceptable.”

Some churches have filed legal action against state and local governments, arguing that they are not treating houses of worship fairly when planning out which entities can open up and when.

For example, Church of the Word of Fenton, Missouri sued St. Louis County over a local order limiting in-person worship to 25% capacity while secular businesses are allowed 100% capacity.

“We are actively engaging with the civil realm to make sure that the establishment of religious liberty and freedom of speech isn’t lost in these days [of] government expansion and fear,” stated the church.

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750 killed at Ethiopian Orthodox church said to contain Ark of the Covenant: report

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Around 750 people were killed in an attack on an Orthodox church, which is said to contain the Ark of the Covenant described in the Book of Exodus in the Bible, in northern Ethiopia’s war-torn Tigray region — home to thousands of churches and monasteries — according to reports.

Hundreds of people hiding in Maryam Tsiyon Church in Aksum amid an armed conflict were brought out and shot to death, and local residents believe the aim was to take the Ark of Covenant to Addis Ababa, the Belgium-based nonprofit European External Programme with Africa reported in this month’s situational report, released on Jan. 9.

“The number of people killed is reported as 750,” it said. The church, the most ancient and sacred of Ethiopian Christianity and also known as the Church of St. Mary of Zion, belongs to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.

“I’ve not heard more than rumours about the looting of the Arc from Maryam Tsion, but if it’s true that up to 750 died defending it, it is conceivable that the attackers didn’t stop there,” said Michael Gervers, a professor of history at the University of Toronto, according to The Telegraph.

“The government and the Eritreans want to wipe out the Tigrayan culture. They think they’re better than rest of the people in the country. The looting is about destroying and removing the cultural presence of Tigray,” Gervers explained.

Former BBC World Service Africa editor and Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, Martin Plaut, said that those who escaped the Aksum massacre had reported that the attack began after Ethiopian federal troops and Amhara militia approached the church, the U.K.’s Church Times reported.

“People were worried about the safety of the Ark, and when they heard troops were approaching feared they had come to steal it. All those inside the cathedral were forced out into the square,” Plaut was quoted as saying.

About 1,000 people were believed to be in the church complex at the time of the attack. The EEPA said the massacre was carried out by Ethiopian federal troops and allied Amhara militia that are fighting the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.

The church and and the Ark have likely not been damaged, Plaut added.

The fighting began in Tigray since Nov. 4 when the region’s ruling political party Tigray People’s Liberation Front captured the Northern Command army base in the regional capital Mekelle as part of an uprising, after which Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a military offensive. Abiy claimed on Nov. 28 that the Ethiopian National Defense Force had regained “full command” of Mekelle.
Sources:Christian Post

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Charges dropped against deacon arrested for singing hymns outdoors

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A court has dismissed all charges against a church deacon who was one of the three arrested last September for singing while not wearing a mask at a “psalm sing” outdoor worship service held in Moscow City, Idaho.

The Idaho District Court dropped charges against Gabriel Rench in the case State of Idaho v. Gabriel Rench. The deacon was arrested at an event hosted by Christ Church and held outside City Hall in response to the extension of a COVID-19-prompted mask mandate imposed by Moscow’s mayor at the time, the law firm Thomas More Society, which represented the church, said.

“We had done the Psalm sing in the past under the same [mask] resolution and we weren’t arrested, we weren’t warned … we were just taking our constitutional liberties to do what we’re allowed to do under the Constitution — worship,” Rench said, referring to the event that was attended by about 200 people.

The city of Moscow, “appears to have been so anxious to make an example of Christ Church’s opposition to their desired COVID restrictions that they failed to follow the mandatory exemptions articulated in their own laws,” Thomas More Society Special Counsel Michael Jacques noted.

“The Moscow City Code allows the Mayor to issue public health emergency orders, but exempts ‘[a]ny and all expressive and associative activity that is protected by the United States and Idaho Constitutions, including speech, press, assembly, and/or religious activity,’” Jacques explained. “Mr. Rench and the other worshipers who were arrested had their constitutionally protected liberties violated and their lives disrupted — not only by the inappropriate actions of law enforcement officers, but also by city officials who did not immediately act to correct this unlawful arrest.”

After Rench and others were arrested in September, the church wrote on its Facebook page: “Yesterday Christ Church sponsored a flash psalm sing at city hall. We were going to appear there at quarter to [5 p.m.], sing three psalms or hymns, then the doxology, and then out. The songs were Psalm 20, Psalm 124, and ‘Amazing Grace.’ When we arrived, the police were waiting for us. One of them informed me that people either had to social distance or wear a mask or otherwise face a citation.”

Douglas Wilson, who wrote the post, added: “I told him that I would inform everyone of that, which I did. I said a brief prayer, and we began to sing. Over the following 15 minutes of singing, three of our people were arrested, and two others were cited.”
Sources:Christian Post

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