By Matthew Shanbom, Managing Editor
Following weeks of criticism, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis finally enacted a stay at home order for the whole state on April 1 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This order, however, comes with a few exemptions. There are the expected exemptions such as essential workers and helping family members. However, right at the top of the list of exemptions is an unexpected one: places of worship.
What makes places of worship essential and other places not? Worship often involves over a hundred people in tight pews all gathered together chanting prayers. This puts everyone inside and even those outside at a higher risk.
In South Korea, about 53% of all COVID cases in the country were directly linked to the Shincheonji church, according to that country’s disease control chief. What did South Korea do in response? It shut down the churches and expanded testing.
Why should The United States, the self-proclaimed most powerful country, be behind many other countries in containing the virus? In a country founded upon the separation of church and state, no preference should be given to places of worship over any other business. We have to face the facts: Worship is a large social gathering like any other and can spread the virus just as easily as any other social gathering.
This issue is further raised because DeSantis quickly amended this order to override all local orders. Broward County had already put a limit of 10 people at religious services, a fair precaution requiring social distancing. By taking this action, DeSantis is side-stepping the will of counties and municipalities who, frankly, are putting forward more decisive action than the governor himself.
DeSantis must take places of worship off the exemption list to do as much as reasonably possible to protect the citizens of his state of Florida.