Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Kacer’s Call on Statewide Propositions November 3, 2020 California Presidential General Election

Kacer’s Call on Statewide Propositions
November 3, 2020 California Presidential General Election 

Notes:

1.        Following the title, “(C)” indicates a State Constitution change; “(S)” a Statute change

2.        All biblical citations rely upon the ESV translation

3.        How do I analyze the Propositions? See my Guidelines at the end

4.        Who is Frank Kacer? See short bio at the end 

Prop 14: Bond for Stem Cell Research (S) Recommended Vote: NO

Content:  Bond for $5.5B, to be paid back with $2.3B estimated interest over 40 years for a total cost of $7.8B.  Funds to be used for stem cell and related research to develop treatments for serious diseases and conditions of the brain. General Fund repayment on loans postponed for first 5 years. Grant recipients that gain commercial revenue from a resulting license will contribute to the State General Fund, offsetting the cost of the Bond. Embryonic stem cells are specifically targeted for research because of expected, limited federal activities. Provisions may be amended by 70% vote of both houses of legislature and signing by the Governor.

Consider:  Use of embryonic stem cells destroys the embryo, which is a human life made in the image of God (Gen 1:27; Psalm 139:13-16) that must be protected (Prov 24:11-12). Only God has the right to determine when the life of a child may be taken away (Deut 32:39; 1 Sam 2:6). Also, bonds wrongly presume upon future economic uncertainties (Prov 22:3; Jam 4:13-14). Government public debt steals from future generations without their consent (Ex 20:15), and shows financial opportunism is preferred over prudent planning and living within current means (Prov 13:11; 1 Tim 6:10a). Public debt carries future financial burden, making future debtors beholding to the lenders (Prov 22:7).

Prop 15: Business Property Tax Reassessment for More School Funding (C) Recommended Vote: NO

Content:  Requires property tax reassessment of commercial and industrial properties every 3 years, or less, to establish new taxable fair market value. Reassessments of small businesses will begin in 2025-2026. Increased property tax revenue is projected to generate $8 - $12.5B each year for use in providing “supplemental” funding of local public schools and community colleges. 

Consider:  Targeting businesses for frequent tax reassessments punishes their long-range planning to minimize costs over many years, this is unfair and discriminatory (Deut 25:13-16; Prov 11:1; 20:10,23).     Funding for all public K-12 and State colleges/universities already consumes the majority of the State budget. Increasing school funding with no measureable metrics to prove (or disprove) greater scholastic competence incentivizes continued waste and abuse (Prov 26:11). Expecting new tax funds to remain supplemental to existing budgets is naïve and foolish, it will eventually replace normally budgeted money (bait and switch; Prov 20:14). No amount of increased funding for schools will ever be enough (Prov 30:15a; 1 Tim 6:10).

Prop 16: Should Prop 209 (1996) be Repealed? (C) Recommended Vote: NO

Content:  Approval of this Proposition would repeal Proposition 209 of 1996 which prohibited the state from discriminating against, or granting preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting. The State for these purposes includes the state, any city, county, public university system, community college district, school district, special district, or any other political subdivision or governmental instrumentality of, or within, the state.

Consider:  Prop 209 eliminated discriminatory hiring and contracting actions (i.e. “Affirmative Action”) that were predicated on gaining equal outcomes instead of ensuring equal opportunities. Employment and contracting actions should be based on merit (Prov 22:29; 1 Cor 9:24) and not on factors unrelated to the work at hand. Everyone has: equal worth by being created in the image of God (Gen 1:27), different giftedness (Rom 12:6-8) and experience (Job 12:12; Prov 20:29), and time and chance happening to everyone (Ecc 9:11). All these factors (not irrelevant ones) are reasonable considerations in hiring/contracting decisions. Voting NO allows Prop 209 to remain in force.

Prop 17: Allows Felons on Parole to Vote (C) Recommended Vote: NO

Content:  Currently, those convicted of a felony and are either in state or federal prison, or on parole, are not allowed to vote. After parole, the convicted felon can petition for a return of voting rights. This Proposition would automatically reinstate voting privileges to convicted felons once they are out of prison (ignores parole status).

Consider:  Those who steal or harm have a callous disregard for others, and reject their responsibility to be a blessing (Jer 29:7) to the community. Serious criminal acts (felonies) deserve severe punishment, including the temporary revocation of voting privileges which recognizes irresponsibility that’s inconsistent with the maturity needed to decide on matters of governance. Parole is a means to shorten prison terms to reduce costs and allow an opportunity to validate “good behavior” (Ecc 8:5; Titus 2:12); it is a conditional release from prison and is still part of the punishment. Biblical mercy is extended to most felons by allowing them to have their voting rights reinstated after they’ve finished their full prison and parole time (Prov 13:18).

Prop 18: Allow 17-Year-Olds to Vote in Primary if 18 by General Election (C) Recommended Vote: NO

Content:  This Proposition would allow a 17-year-old citizen to vote in any primary or special election that occurs before the next general election, if the 17-year-old is at least 18 years old at the time of the general election.

Consider:  National voting age is 18 (26th Amendment to Constitution), driven by the age allowed to go to war (enter military service). However, God declared men at age 20: were mature enough to go to war (Num 1:3), were allowed to bring their own offerings to the Temple (Ex 30:14), were able to oversee the work of the house of the Lord (Ezra 3:8), and were personally accountable for major sins (Num 14:29-30; 32:11). If age is a reasonable voting discriminator, biblical “adulthood” at age 20 appears far more prudent than at age 18, with any attempt to lower it even further both unwarranted and ill-conceived (1 Cor 13:11).

Prop 19: Property Tax Changes and Firefighting Funding (C)Recommended Vote: NO

Content:  Approval of this Proposition would: give greater property tax reassessment protection for seniors, severely disabled and disaster victims, remove current inheritance protections restricting property tax reassessments, and use increased property tax revenue to supplement funding for statewide firefighting operations

Consider:  This Proposition dramatically limits benefit to heirs of inherited property by imposing property tax reassessments unless residence is occupied by the heir. This removes current Constitutional limits on inheritance reassessments (Prov 19:14a; 2 Cor 12:14). One basic duty of government is to protect its citizens (Rom 13:4a) and maintain order (1 Tim 2:1-2), this includes firefighting. Needing to increase taxes to cover core governmental responsibilities demonstrates willful neglect, incompetent planning and poor prioritization (Prov 29:2) that should not be allowed.  Expecting “new” tax funds to remain supplemental to existing budgets is naïve and foolish, new funds will eventually replace normally budgeted money (bait and switch; Prov 20:14). Allowing greater property tax protections for seniors (Ex 20:12), severely disabled and disaster victims (Prov 3:27) is good, but should not be conditioned on implementing the rest of this Proposition.

Prop 20: Parole Reform and Restoration of Violent Crime Categorizations (S) Recommended Vote: YES

Content:  This Proposition has three parts: it restores the classification of certain crimes as “violent” instead of “non-violent” to prevent early parole and also tighten post-release supervision requirements, it reforms theft laws to account for serial thieves and organized theft rings, and it expands DNA collection from persons convicted of drug, theft and domestic violence crimes.   

Consider:  Minimizing the consequences for committing violent (and non-violent) felonies (serious crimes) only encourages more criminal activity (Ecc 8:11), this Proposition corrects these legal oversights. Patterns of serial criminal activity must be handled more severely (1 Tim 5:20) to prevent repeating this behavior (Prov 26:11; 2 Peter 2:22) and in some cases offer specialized help if necessary (i.e. drug treatment) (Jam 5:19-20). DNA from all criminals is a critical witness in serious crimes that can help convict or exonerate a person (Deu 19:15).

Prop 21: Rent Controls (S) Recommended Vote: NO

Content:  This Proposition would give counties and cities the authority to exercise rent control, limit rent increases to more than 15% over three years, while exempting owners of no more than 2 residential dwellings. It replaces much of the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act (1995) that prevented cities from enacting rent control on units first occupied after 1995 and allowed landlords to increase rents on any unit to market rates when the tenant moved out.

Consider:  The weak, poor and destitute are to be cared for (Psalm 82:3-4). However, artificial restraint of “supply & demand” principles creates disincentives to new construction or costly property upgrades/maintenance (result: property decay). Bottom lines: officials are ignoring cost of housing drivers such as: unnecessary bureaucratic delays, high labor union costs, and tax/excessive regulation/restrictive zoning impacts. These all limit the natural housing supply. Rent controls appear to be “compassionate” (Matt 22:39), but don’t correct unnecessary governmental causes of high rents (Matt 7:5), and create conditions for the growth of substandard housing by adding burden without relief (Matt 23:1-7).

Prop 22: Keeping App-Based Drivers & Services as Independent Contractors (S) Recommended Vote: YES

Content:  Existing legislative law (AB 5) severely limits the ability of independent contractors to do work in California, with the intention of creating far more union-based companies and jobs. This Proposition exempts app-based rideshare and delivery network companies from AB 5 and would allow the use of independent contractors as drivers, while providing for healthcare subsidies, minimum earnings of 120% of minimum wage or higher, compensation for vehicle expenses, accident insurance, criminal background checks and driver safety training.

Consider: A company and an employee should be free to agree on mutually acceptable conditions of employment (Matt 20:1-15) without excessive government interference (Deu 25:4; 1 Cor 9:9; 1 Tim 5:18). This Proposition restores freedom to the independent contractor to determine their own hours, location of work, amount of work, etc. (Gal 5:13) without having to be forced to conform to union-based employment inefficiencies, rigidity, and the inevitable coerced support for progressive political causes (2 Cor 6:14-15).

Prop 23: Additional Regulations on Outpatient Kidney Dialysis Clinics (S) Recommended Vote: NO

Content:  Requires for-profit dialysis corporations (which treat 75% of CA dialysis patients) to have a full-time physician on each clinic site at all times, and if the clinic cannot provide a physician, provide a nurse practitioner or physician assistant if approved by the State. If a clinic must close: it must obtain written consent of the State yet still ensure patients have no interrupted access to care, or the clinic must prove good faith efforts to sell, lease or transfer ownership to another entity that would provide dialysis care. Significant quarterly reporting requirements from each clinic must be precisely met or significant fines will be applied.

Consider:  Requiring full-time physician presence at each clinic (without compelling health need) will substantially increase costs & create high risk of closures and decreased dialysis availability – putting lives unnecessarily at risk. Forcing large, unnecessary cost increases, yet requiring continued, uninterrupted availability is punitive treatment with intent to destroy (Ex 5:10-14; Luke 11:46; 1 Tim 5:18). Government is not to treat similarly situated businesses differently & pejoratively (Prov 11:1; 24:23). Also, significant financial penalties could be assessed against any clinic for any inaccuracy, intended or not, on any and all information required to be submitted quarterly. Not only is this an onerous burden (Deu 25:4), but the penalties far exceed what “justice” would ever require (Deut 25:13-16; Prov 11:1; 20:10,23).    

Prop 24: Consumer Privacy Protection (S) Recommended Vote: YES [With reservations]

Content:  This Proposition intends to codify protections a consumer should have over information collected by businesses. Specifically, a consumer is to be able to know what information is being collected, how it is being used, and to who it is being disclosed (either sold or shared). Also, consumers are to be able to limit the use or disclosure of sensitive personal information, as well as an ability to correct or delete it. Businesses must clearly inform consumers about how they collect and use personal information and how consumers can exercise their rights and choices concerning that information. Administrative penalties can be applied to businesses for violating these consumer rights.

Consider:  Normally, very complicated Propositions that have difficult-to-understand implications should not be supported (1 Cor 14:33). However, existing baseline consumer protection legislation has continued to be modified (sometimes weakened), which necessitates providing a standard to build future protections on, without allowing any weakening or delay in consumer protection (Ecc 8:11). Erroneous, false, misleading and intimate information can be used as a weapon against unsuspecting consumers (2 Cor 2:11) by anyone allowed to have access. Providing safeguards against this possible abuse will help protect reputations (Prov 22:1; Ecc 7:1a) and unnecessary confusion. Future changes strengthening consumer protections can be implemented by a simple majority vote of the legislature.

Prop 25: Should the Bail Bond System be Weakened (S) Recommended Vote: NO [A “NO” vetoes SB 10]

Content:  The California legislature passed SB 10 to end the use of cash bail for detained suspects awaiting trials. Release decisions would be based on algorithmic risk assessments determining Low, Medium or High risk of the detainee not showing up for trial or being a risk to public safety. Most suspects of misdemeanor offenses would not require a risk assessment and would be released to await trial. Other suspects would either be detained or released based on the risk assessment, with various options for supervision during release, but no use of bail.

Consider:  Use of bail incentivizes the return of the suspect to face trial (Gen 42:18-20; Acts 17:1-9). Upon arrest, judgment has already been made that there is sufficient cause to believe a crime was committed. At that point, the use of bail is a wisdom issue; the amount is based on many factors and is related to the seriousness of the suspected crime, not on a person’s ability to pay (Prov 22:2). Bail incentivizes the innocent to return to clear their names (Prov 22:1), and the guilty to return and not lose their bail and not face more serious changes for not showing up. Since bail is not a fine, it is returned to the suspect whatever the outcome of the trial.

General Guidelines I Follow in Analyzing Propositions: 

  • Do: First read Title & Summary, then proposed legal text, then Legislative Analyst analysis; then arguments for and against
  • Do: Ask yourself if this is a proper role of government biblically
  • Do: Determine what general principles apply (biblical, conservative, practical)
  • Do: Ask yourself if this is the right thing to do, who benefits, and what consequences will result
  • Do: Apply common sense; come to a tentative conclusion – compare to positions of those you trust
  • Do: Concentrate on the major implications and not on trivial aspects to make a decision
  • Don’t: Rely on recommendations of organizations by name only (many sound good but can be deceptively misleading)
  • Don’t: Wait until the last day to do your research (spread it out over time)
  • Don’t: Support government going into future debt (there are only very rare exceptions to this)
  • Don’t: Allow rare circumstances or emotional arguments to overly influence you (“rare cases make bad law”)
  • Don’t: Support anything that’s too complex to completely understand (could be purposeful obfuscation)
  • Don’t: Accept a lot of bad legislation for the sake of a small amount of good, “worthwhile” legislation

Who is Frank Kacer? 

Frank has been married to Lynn for 47 years and has three married children and five grandchildren. He has served as a pastor/elder at Grace Bible Church since 1990 and is now pastor/elder emeritus. Professionally, Frank was a physicist in the Department of Defense Intelligence Community for over 35 years and was also a senior systems engineer with SAIC for 12 years. As a Christian worldview political activist, Frank has engaged in grass-roots political activism, candidate recruitment and assessment, precinct operations, and formal political party representation both locally and with state conventions. He has also served for seven years on the Board of Directors for the National Center for Law and Policy and currently serves as the Director of Research, Content and Curriculum for Well Versed ministries. As Founder and Executive Director of the Christian Citizenship Council (C3), Frank has published his “Kacer’s Call” biblical perspective on every California statewide Proposition since 2002. His most recent book is Christian Fratricide – Why Christians Continue to be Divided Politically (Updated Edition 2020). 

To contact Frank by email, use: frankkacer@hotmail.com

DOWNLOAD PDF VERSION HERE

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Kacer’s Biblical Politics: Who Should Be Allowed To Vote?


A serious question
 

If you do internet searches on biblical qualifications to vote, there’s a lot on “how” to vote biblically, but not “who” should be allowed to vote. Since representative government based on the direct, informed vote of the people was not commonplace in biblical times, does the Bible have any insight into the question of “who” as opposed to “how”? 

Who can vote today? 

Although “voting rights” has a checkered history in the United States, the current qualifications include: being at least 18 years old, a citizen with residency established, not in prison (or on parole) for the conviction of a felony (varies by state), and not currently found mentally incompetent by a court. 

That there are no voting restrictions based on race or gender shouldn’t be a surprise, since it reflects the triumph of scriptural truths countering mankind’s sinful nature (see Jeremiah 17:9) which degrades and marginalizes anyone seen as inferior. What are those truths? Scripture says that everyone was created in the image of God with the same intrinsic value (see Genesis 1:27); but we’re also accountable to that same God for how we deal with each other (see Romans 2:6-7). This great biblical leveling also removes wealth, land ownership, social status and degree of intellectual prowess as discriminators for having voting rights. 

These rights are also granted independent of one’s faith; whether the voter is Christian, Jewish, Atheist, Muslim, Hindu, Wiccan, or anything else since our nation is based on a Judeo-Christian understanding of justice founded on God’s Word (see Micah 6:8). That ethic treats everyone under the law equally, independent of doctrinal beliefs, and is consistent with the 1st Amendment to our Constitution which protects religious freedom. 

What about age? 

There’s a maturing process to leave childhood and become an adult. Jesus even grew in wisdom as He grew older (see Luke 2:52); and Paul said when he was a child he spoke, thought and reasoned like a child, but when he became a man, he gave up childish ways (see 1 Corinthians 13:11). One marker for adulthood, therefore, is when a person thinks like an adult and is responsible towards others (see 1 Corinthians 13:4-7). 

However, biblically and practically age appears to be the useful threshold, as opposed to some qualitative measure of maturity. In the United States, a person must be at least 18 to enter the military. Willingness to commit one’s life to defend our nation at such a young age helped justify the 26th Amendment to the Constitution, lowering the national voting age to 18. But for Old Testament Israel, 20 was the age God declared that men were mature enough to go to war (see Numbers 1:3) even though many were not able to do so (see Deuteronomy 20:1-8). Twenty was also when men: began bringing their own offerings to the Temple (see Exodus 30:14), were able to oversee the work of the house of the Lord (see Ezra 3:8), and were accountable (and punishable) for major sins (see Numbers 14:29-30; 32:11). Even financial vows based on the “valuation” of a person were higher for a 20-year-old than for children (see Leviticus 27:1-6). If age is a reasonable voting discriminator, biblical “adulthood” at 20 years of age appears far more prudent than 18, with any attempt to lower it even further (i.e. 17 or 16) appearing unwarranted and ill-conceived. 

What about citizenship? 

To protect foreigners, God required Old Testament Israel to apply civil laws equally to the native born and the alien (see Exodus 12:49; Leviticus 18:26; 24:22, Numbers 15:15-16). However, Israel had several obligations that applied to those born to their own people that didn’t apply to foreigners. The most precious had to do with national remembrance (see Exodus 12:1-28) and recognition of the transcendent God (see Ezekiel 44:6-7). When foreigners formally committed to Israel’s prevalent core values and beliefs, they could fully participate in these obligations as if they were natural born citizens (see Exodus 12:48; 1 Kings 8:41-43); but this was a serious commitment! 

The same general principle applies today. To participate in the direct governing of our nation, a foreigner must show a commitment to our values and fidelity to what our nation represents, with citizenship being the qualifier. Therefore, to casually allow non-citizens to vote either through fraud, incompetence, or unaccountable voter registration processes (i.e. without valid identification, or with the use of driver’s license applications) is trivializing a high privilege and duty and creating opportunities for abuse. 

What about felons? 

Jeremiah’s letter to the Jewish exiles in Babylon summarizes the duty one has to the nation they live in: “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you … for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (see Jeremiah 29:7). Those who steal or harm have a callous disregard for others, and are rejecting their responsibility to be a blessing instead of a curse to the community. As a result, society has decided that serious criminal acts (felonies) deserve severe punishment, generally with the temporary revocation of voting privileges. This appears just, since it recognizes a level of irresponsibility that is inconsistent with the maturity needed to vote on weighty matters of governance. With that said, biblical mercy is also shown to most felons by giving them the opportunity for reinstatement of voting rights after they’ve served their time. Whether that time includes parole or not is a wisdom issue that varies from state to state. 

With that said, current attempts to let imprisoned felons retain their voting privileges sends a wrong message. Felons are imprisoned because of a profound lack of respect for others and to prevent any further criminal acts; keeping their voting privilege says they are as responsible as other citizens to decide on matters of governmental import. 

What about the mentally incompetent? 

Scripture has little to say concerning the loss of mental faculties other than the natural decay that comes with old age (see Ecclesiastes 12:1-7). If one is insane, they’re not competent to rationally govern themselves and legal action to restrain their activities (including voting) is appropriate. Let’s be clear, this isn’t the same thing as believing someone is “crazy” if they have a different opinion or view of “truth” (see Mark 3:21; John 10:19-20). Unfortunately, through poorly supervised “ballot harvesting” many individuals that are mentally infirm (those that are incapable of making independent decisions) can be “helped” by third parties to fill out their ballot.  

This help may be well meaning, but it is also prone to easy exploitation of the defenseless (see Proverbs 22:22a). After helping someone to vote, these ballots can then be collected by the third party to deliver to a polling site. It’s naïve to think this voting approach won’t be abused by those willing to win at any cost. 

Two competing approaches 

Elections have consequences, and voting is a major citizenship responsibility. As expected, both ends of the political spectrum claim to be concerned about voting integrity, but they differ radically in how to achieve it. 

One side claims: voter fraud is exceedingly rare, sees attempts to clean up voter registration rolls as trying to disenfranchise certain voter demographics, believes voter registration should be open to any who are “contributing” to our nation, wants the voting age to be lowered, wants voting rights for felons automatically reinstated after release from prison (or not taken away in the first place), pushes for ballot harvesting to “help” marginalized people, and wants mail-in ballots to be the norm everywhere for every election. 

The other side wants: trustworthy evidence of identification and citizenship status before a person is allowed to register and to vote, “clean” voter registration rolls, direct voter to polling place integrity without any possible intervention, to deny any opportunity to vote multiple times, and believes voter fraud is much more common than is being reported. 

Given the sinful nature of mankind (see Jeremiah 17:9), the more numerous the options for voting and the more complicated the processes, the greater the opportunity for both fraud and error resulting in legitimate voters being disenfranchised. We know massive voting confusion is inconsistent with the very nature of God (see 1 Corinthians 14:33), and does not accomplish the noble purposes an informed electorate wants. Unfortunately, attempts to prevent the manipulation and use of the uninformed (such as many of the homeless), the incapacitated (the mentally compromised), and the ineligible (e.g. illegal aliens, felons, impersonators, non-residents, multiple votes) is often condemned as voter suppression and thus difficult to implement.  

Our biggest election threat 

Whether or not complete confidence in the legitimacy of elections will ever be achieved, there are election influences far more destructive than any direct voter fraud. The worldview that dominates academia, the major news media, the entertainment and sports industry, social media platforms, and much of the political discourse in our nation is a secular, self-centered, godless, amoral one that is anathema to a biblical worldview. These influencers are not only powerful, but they actively denigrate, marginalize, and even prevent any open dialogue with conservative, biblically-based thought at any level. 

The tactics of these influencers shouldn’t be a surprise. They’re the same as those used in the greatest miscarriage of justice in human history: the sending of Jesus to the cross! Contrary to all reason and evidence, Jesus was condemned (voted against) by common people after being incited by wicked leadership to have Him killed (see Matthew 27:15-23; Mark 15:6-15). In our day, vial, deceptive, false, and late-breaking claims are destructive to the efficacy of our election process and emanate from the same source that condemned Jesus (see John 8:43-44). What are our best counter weapons (see 2 Corinthians 10:4-5): to diligently speak truth (see Ephesians 4:25), expose evil for what it is (see Ephesians 5:11), support godly candidates for office and vote biblically (see Matthew 5:13-16), pray fervently (see 1 Thessalonians 5:17), and entrust the results to God. 

Feel free to forward this article to whomever you think would benefit from it. Also, you can provide feedback or subscribe to these articles using the email below. 

Your servant in Christ,

Frank Kacer

frankkacer@hotmail.com

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Kacer’s Biblical Politics: Enough is Enough!

 

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Kacer’s Biblical Politics: Enough is Enough! 

Where are we? 

Because extraordinary demands require extraordinary justification, it’s time for a gut-check on government’s “emergency” restrictions on religious freedom, and our obligations to God.

Nationwide, church leaders deferred to government and health authorities when faced with the potential of mass deaths and healthcare chaos when COVID-19 hit the United States. Because of the unknowns, extreme caution for the health of everyone seemed appropriate (see Matthew 22:39) and virtual ministry replaced the promised short-term suspension of in-person ministry, fellowship, and worship. 

But, after 5 months of inconsistent governmental mandates with dubious results, much of the nation is still suffering from heavy-handed government overreach. Even in states with reduced restrictions, ratcheting back to full lockdown remains an option at any time. With medical experts disagreeing with each other (and themselves), and political opportunists teaming with an unscrupulous news industry to manipulate anything COVID to disparage the Trump administration, churches need to return to basics to make an informed decision on what to do.

Our most precious freedom 

The 1st Amendment to the US Constitution says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The term “free exercise” covers all matters of faith (doctrine), ecclesiology (organization), and practice (worship, ministry, etc.). With such a clear and profound protection of religious freedom, any infringement on free exercise must be: exceedingly rare, very limited in scope, temporary, and overwhelmingly justifiable. 

We know that both government and church are subject to the God that created them (see Colossians 1:15-17). Each is designed to benefit the other (see Romans 13:1-5; Matthew 5:13-16; 22:15-21), and neither has dictatorial powers over the other. However, the Constitution requires government to be deferential on spiritual matters and not control churches like they do secular businesses or governmental agencies. So, when government defines abortion clinics, large retail and food outlets, liquor stores, marijuana dispensaries and even mass protests as “essential,” while churches are not, this relegates spiritual health to the status of a hobby that can wait for a more convenient time. Arbitrarily limiting indoor church groups to 10 or 100 independent of a facilities’ size, even allowing or forbidding singing, is exercising unconstitutional control over what is explicitly protected from governmental caprice. 

A responsible government would be an advisor to the faith community as much as possible, providing guidelines based on solid evidence for pastors to consider as they make ministry decisions. When government unilaterally dictates what is or is not allowable for churches, then threatens noncompliance with contact tracing, fines, turning off power and water, forced closure, and possible prison time they’re sending a clear message: “I will tell you what you can do, when you can do it, and for how long. Period.” This hostility towards the fundamental rights of people of faith displays a profound ignorance of spiritual matters (see 1 Corinthians 2:14), and a worldview that believes government leaders are the final arbiters of virtually everything. 

Is this overstated, I don’t think so. Is it really that far-fetched to think secularists may be jerking churches around to see how far a compliant Christian community will bend to the will of government? Or, is it conceivable these actions are just meant to cause as much discouragement as possible within the faith community during this Presidential election year? 

Whatever the reasons may be, religious liberty is being subjugated to the whim of secular rulers. If we value the religious freedoms our nation was literally created to protect, unnecessary government overreach must be resisted with all moral, ethical and legal means available. However, at the same time it’s critical for every pastor to implement reasonable safeguards based on the best information available in order to protect the health of everyone involved in ministry (see 1 Peter 5:2). 

Who do we obey? 

Of far more significance than Constitutional issues is the biblical command to obey God. The Lord instituted government for our good (see Romans 13:1-4; 1 Timothy 2:1-2; 1 Peter 2:13-14), but if its actions cause us to disobey God, then it has exceeded its authority and must be resisted (see Acts 4:19-20; 5:29). The question is: have government restrictions been forcing churches to disobey God? 

The clearest command we have is to routinely gather together in worship (see Hebrews 10:24-25). Emergencies may override this obligation for a very short time, but God clearly calls the entire assembly to meet together, not just some arbitrarily small number over an indeterminate time period. Creative use of drive through worship or church parking lots only serves to vindicate government’s usurpation of authority over the church assembling together. Instead of looking for loopholes in government mandates, church leadership should be deciding how to best care for the spiritual and physical heath of the entire flock, not just a small portion of the church at any given time. Its one thing for church leaders to decide how to protect its vulnerable members during worship; it’s quite another for government to arbitrarily forbid people from worshipping together! 

But there’s more. What about the Lord’s Supper? The biblical pattern implies weekly participation in this visual reminder of the gospel and Christ’s redemptive work on the cross (see 1 Corinthians 11:26). Though weekly observance may not be the norm for many churches, the disruption of the entire Body of Christ routinely participating together is a direct prohibition of one of God’s clearest means of grace to His people. This is a very serious matter (see Acts 2:42-44; 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34), and one that government is incapable of understanding, much less properly respecting (see 1 Corinthians 2:14). 

What about singing? Ephesians 5:19 (see also Colossians 3:16-17) clearly shows that believers are to gather together to sing to the Lord to praise Him and edify each other. How is this possible if we are masked, social distanced, limited to an arbitrarily small number, and prohibited from being inside? For that matter, what about the need for believers to fellowship together (see Acts 2:42), pray together (see Matthew 18:20), edify and encourage each other (see 1 Thessalonians 5:11), and comfort each other through physical touch (2 Corinthians 13:12)? Using electronic means can be useful, but it is far removed from the blessings God intended through the physical gathering of His people. 

What about weddings, funerals, baptisms? Each is an intimate, profoundly spiritual event with the body of Christ assembled together. Any government imposed limitation on the number present (even with social distancing) only serves to limit the blessings that God intends for us all. 

Since government does not have the authority to deny the means of grace that God intentionally created to build up the body of Christ, pastors are the ones that must decide how to best honor the Lord, respect the government where it is due (see Romans 13:7), and also exercise prudence in protecting the health of the flock. 

What about civil disobedience? 

Is a church disobeying government if it doesn’t conform to all COVID-19 mandates? 

First off, government is the one disobeying the law of the land when it prohibits the faith community from freely exercising their constitutionally protected right to worship and pursue ministry. After rejecting our nation’s highest law, government then requires the people of God to forsake biblical imperatives to worship together, participate in the Lord’s Supper together, and to freely fulfill all the other spiritual disciplines meant to build up the body of Christ while living out the gospel – together! So who is really the disobedient one? 

Second, are churches hypocritical if they obey building and fire codes, yet reject government restrictions imposed on worship because of health reasons? Not at all! Building and fire standards apply to everyone equally and are a public matter of common sense (and common grace), with objectively verifiable effectiveness. These codes help ensure ministry continues unabated, and are not intended to be a means to destroy worship, fellowship, ministry or any other church activity. However, if building and fire codes were actually used to cripple a church’s obedience to God, they would have to be rejected. 

Finally, it’s tiring to hear the argument that Christians are not to disobey government (see Romans 13:1-5; 1 Peter 2:13) unless specifically ordered to disobey God, i.e. stop proclaiming the gospel (see Acts 4:19-20; 5:29). Scripture also says that government is intended for our good (see Romans 13:3-4), therefore, when it’s actions run counter to that purpose the legitimacy of those actions can and must be challenged. Concerning the gospel in particular, it is proclaimed in more ways than preaching. It is proclaimed in the Lord’s Supper, it is proclaimed in our singing, in baptisms, in weddings, in funerals, in small groups and in corporate prayers, and in honoring Christ by ministering to each other. It’s clear that governmental health mandates have significantly restrained the extent of these means to proclaim the gospel. Government didn’t have to be overt in restraining the gospel, it was able to do it indirectly (see 2 Corinthians 2:11). 

The bottom lines 

Any non-trivial impact on the gospel must be rejected (see 1 Peter 5:8-9), whether someone labels this as civil disobedience or not. In our fallen world, if government is blindly obeyed it will only be emboldened to do more damage to our spiritual health and gospel proclamation when the next emergencies occur. 

Although to us the future is uncertain, we know we’re in God’s capable hands (see Psalm 31:15). Therefore, let us be diligent to prayerfully ask Him to grant wisdom and unity throughout the Body of Christ as we face the future together (see James 1:5). 

Feel free to forward this article to whomever you think would benefit from it. Also, you can provide feedback using the email below. 

Your servant in Christ,

Frank Kacer

frankkacer@hotmail.com