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PROTESTS DOUBLE STANDARD
The "no mask, no restrictions, no stay-at-home order" rally organizers and protesters did not obtain permits for their protests at the Illinois State Capitol; were protesting in the streets and blocking traffic; were blatantly and proudly not wearing masks; and did not follow the six-foot social distancing order ("Masked hatred," May 28).
There was no enforcement of those rules by the Secretary of State's office or the Springfield Police Department. In addition, the police officers were not wearing masks while in the crowd of protesters. At the rally on May 20, the protesters were given a police escort, which to me and many others indicated a sign of support for their protest.
I want to be clear that I am not anti-police. I support them in their jobs to protect and to serve. But they must do so equally.
I have been at numerous rallies in the past three years and we have always been required to obtain a permit to have a gathering at the Capitol, we were absolutely not allowed to be in the street and we followed the rules to a T. We certainly never received a police escort.
I disagree with the beliefs of the protesters, but do respect their right to protest. However, I believe they should be required to follow the rules just like the rest of us, as should the police officers. The double standard is maddening.
TOO SOON TO REOPEN
Last week, the president of the United States urged houses of worship across the nation to reopen, in a show of defiance, against the advice of public health officials and the directives of their lawfully elected governors. He also claimed the authority to override the decision of any governor who failed to adhere to his demand.
The pandemic has now claimed the lives of more than 100,000 Americans. There are dozens of stories of how COVID-19 has already swept through various congregations, devastating even those that had practiced proper social distancing and other precautions.
My first reaction was not very charitable. I swore. What, I asked myself, would be the consequence of insisting that churches, mosques and temples reopen so soon? There'd be the devil to pay.
In the past, I have spoken of the American civil religion. In ordinary time, its familiar rites and rituals would have been on vivid display during Memorial Day: Old Glory, bunting, patriotic prayers, songs, speeches and salutes to the honored dead. I have often referred to the president of the United States as the high priest of this civil religion. That person commands not just the attention of the nation but also has the most important public pulpit in the land.
Perhaps no one understood this so well as did Abraham Lincoln, who used that pulpit to stir the hearts of his divided countrymen toward the work of furthering the new birth of a new freedom.
Fortunately, we do not live in a vacuum, and I have benefited from the responses by many of my colleagues, including peers from other faith traditions. Some, like me, expressed anger and dismay, while others proved more measured and compassionate. The overwhelming reaction by faith leaders is that reopening churches during this phase of the pandemic – one that could last for years, mind you – is a very, very bad idea. Thank goodness for that.
I am grateful to my peers who can respond thusly, as well as to the words of exemplary figures like Abraham Lincoln, who guided by reason and compassion, help me once again find my spiritual center, and a voice, so that I can faithfully serve our Unitarian Universalist community while we continue finding our pathway through this difficult and unprecedented crisis.
Rev. Martin Woulfe