Critics say proposed rules violate educators’ religious liberty
New “Culturally Responsive Teaching and Leading” standards proposed by the Illinois State Board of Education touch on issues such as sexual orientation, gender identity, and race-based privilege in what supporters call an effort to encourage support for diversity in school age children. But Christian and conservative leaders around the state are concerned the standards will require teachers to affirm ideas in conflict with their own religious beliefs.
Chicago stay-at-home advisories include limits on events in churches
The COVID-19 surge affecting much of the country has resulted in new guidelines issued by Illinois officials, including stay-at-home advisories in Chicago and its suburbs. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s non-mandatory advisory limits to 10 the number of people who can gather at a house of worship for a wedding or a funeral. The advisory, which went into effect Nov. 16, specifies that regular services can continue to operate at 40% capacity or 50 people.
Statewide, the Illinois Department of Public Health has released guidelines for churches that encourage limiting capacity to 25% or 100 people, whichever is lower. Across the country, faith leaders have noted churches provide an essential service, therefore falling into the category of establishments that can continue to operate amid restrictions.
Alito: High Court allowed discrimination against churches
Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito told a conservative legal group that the High Court allowed discrimination to stand in at least two recent cases concerning COVID-19 restrictions on churches. Speaking to the Federalist Society National Lawyers Convention Nov. 12, Alito referenced two cases: Nevada churches that were limited to 50 people while casinos could operate at 50% capacity, and a California church limited to 25% capacity or 100 people. In both cases, the Supreme Court decided to let the restrictions stand.
“[D]eciding whether to allow this disparate treatment should not have been a very tough call,” Alito said of the Nevada case. “Take a quick look at the Constitution. You will see the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment which protects religious liberty. You will not find a craps clause or a blackjack clause or a slot machine clause.”
Survey: Restrictions on religion hit record high mark
Pew Research reports government restrictions on religion in 2018 were at the highest level since Pew started reporting on the data in 2007. (2018 is the most recent year for which data is available.) Of 198 nations and territories studied, 56 have “high” or “very high” levels of government restrictions, which include official laws and actions that curtail religious beliefs and practices. The study, which also analyzes social hostilities toward religion, found of the world’s 25 most populous countries, India, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Russia had the highest overall levels of restrictions.
Sources: Illinois Baptist, Chicago Tribune, Baptist Press, Christian Post, Pew Research