Political Theology and Church Restrictions

Paul Marshal is Wilson Professor of Religious Freedom and Research Professor in Political Science at Baylor University, Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, and the Leimena Institute, Jakarta

Perhaps the most contentious religious freedom issue raised in the pandemic has been governmental limits on religious gatherings, and not only in the U.S.

We should not exaggerate the resistance by churches and others. The vast majority of churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples have followed government orders. Many of those that have resisted restrictions are often fringe bodies, commonly with ties to the “prosperity gospel.”

Also, churches have been scapegoated. The New York Times ran an op-ed titled “The Road to Coronavirus Hell Was Paved by Evangelicals,” though later changed to the milder but still tendentious “The Religious Right’s Hostility to Science Is Crippling Our Coronavirus Response.” Later it published “Churches Emerge as Major Source of Coronavirus Cases.” However, the article traced only 650 cases to churches, which was, on July 8, 2020, the day the piece was published, only 0.022% of the 2,923,432 reported cases in the U.S., hardly a “major” source.


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Religion and Civil Disobedience: The Orthodox Church and Political Protests in Belarus

© Annette Riedl

Regina Elsner is a Researcher at the Centre for East European and International Studies (ZOiS).

The 2020 Belarus Presidential Elections

After the massive falsification of its presidential election results, enormous protests have raged for over two weeks in the Republic of Belarus. Described for many years as the “last dictatorship of Europe,” Belarus has been ruled by Alexander Lukashenka for 26 years. During this time, opposition movements and politicians have been systematically oppressed and every contradiction nipped in the bud. Belarus is the only European country that does not participate in the Council of Europe and does not recognize the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights—a powerful regional instrument of human rights protection on the continent.

As in past elections, the current protests have been brutally suppressed by police, and thousands of men and women have been arrested and tortured in prisons. However, unlike previous protests, protesters have not stopped despite police violence; they continue to protest peacefully and often creatively with unprecedented support from state-owned businesses, hospitals, and the IT industry. It is difficult, however, to foresee how the confrontation between police and peaceful protesters will develop and even more difficult to predict how the political situation and election results will be dealt with.


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Russian Orthodox Symphonia in the Time of Coronavirus

Mikhail Antonov is a Professor of Law associated with the Law Faculty at the National Research University “Higher School of Economics” (Saint Petersburg)


In “The Basis of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church,” adopted at the Sacred Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church (the ROC) on August 14, 2000, the Church referenced the medieval conception of Symphonia to describe the church’s ideal relationship with the Russian state in terms of “body” (state) and “soul” (church): “it is in their linkage and harmony that the well-being of a state lies.” According to the Social Concept, the ROC affirms the general principle of separation of church and state, which is that they shall be distinguished by their competences or spheres of authority, and that cooperation must be based on “mutual support and mutual responsibility without one side intruding into the exclusive domain of the other” (section III.4).


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