Quarantines, Religious Groups, and Some Questions About Equality

Christopher C. Lund is Professor of law at Wayne State University Law School

When the government imposes quarantine orders for public safety, shutting some places down and leaving other places open, how should it treat religious organizations and religious services?  A natural answer is that religious organizations should be treated equally. And that makes sense. Equality is a solid moral principle, with wide-ranging appeal and deep roots in history and in law.

But equality is not self-executing. And the deeper one goes into these quarantine orders, the more that becomes apparent.  We are trying to treat religion equally, but we don’t quite know how. I’m planning a longer piece that will go into more details. But for this blog post, let me simply try to demonstrate two things to you.  First, quarantine schemes require judgments about the value of religious exercise—which is uncomfortable in a system like ours, which tries to keep the government out of such questions.  And second, by insisting that all gatherings of all religious organizations be treated the same way, quarantine schemes become blind to genuine religious differences. We are deciding how much to restrict religious organizations in general by imagining what happens in a religious service, but our imagined religious service ends up looking a lot like a Sunday morning Christian worship service.


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Through the Eyes of James Cone: COVID-19, Police Brutality, and The Black Church

George Walters-Sleyon is McDonald Distinguished Fellow at the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University

About James Cone

He is a theologian. Cone was born in Arkansas in 1938―a lynching state. The only place of upliftment and sanity was the Black church. His first book propelled him to prominence: Black Theology and Black Power (1969). Cone was appointed a professor of Systematic Theology in 1970 at Union Theological Seminary, where he taught until he died in 2018. The presentation explores Cone’s analysis of what he refers to as the “American Holocaust” and its continuity into the 21st century. For Cone, the American Holocaust displays white supremacy as the foundational psyche against Black humanity. This presentation will cover four descriptive areas in Cone’s analysis.


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COVID and Egalitarian Catholic Women’s Movements

Mary Anne Case is Arnold I. Shure Professor of Law and a board member of the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality at the University of Chicago

In his March 27, 2020 extraordinary message Urbi et Orbi, Pope Francis insisted that the time of coronavirus was “not the time of [God’s] judgement, but of our judgement: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not.” The injunction “to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing” offered by the Pope came at what may have been a providential time for egalitarian Catholic women’s movements.  As the pandemic closed church buildings worldwide, and both the women and the priests went home and on line, the effect was to energize and unite the former while isolating the latter.  As priests celebrated mass alone, women organized worldwide mixed sex, women-centered participatory Zoom liturgies, and worshipped in house churches and in communities of nuns without benefit of clergy. The choices made during the pandemic may have lasting consequences for both the clergy, who may find it increasingly difficult to overcome their isolation and reconnect with their flock, and the women and their supporters, who seem increasingly disinclined to go back rather than forward.


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