The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ... ” Taken literally, it sounds as if anything is permitted if it is done in the name of religion.
But how about chaining a child to a light pole if the parents believe it has been infested by demons? Then a step forward to animal sacrifice and another to human sacrifice. This is, of course, absurd; no court in the country would countenance such acts.
However, filling a church or other building in this time of COVID-19 can have asymptomatic attendees breathing this too-often fatal virus upon the entire group. They can, in turn, spread it to first responders and medical staff, grocery workers and letter carriers, gas station attendants and anyone else who comes in contact, even friends and family. Is this not analogous to human sacrifice, with victims, particularly the aged and infirm being the more likely targets.
The Constitution was not meant to be a suicide note; the founding fathers could not have anticipated every problem their new country would face. Common sense and technical expertise must, at times of imminent danger, trump the strict literal interpretation of the words.
Douglas R. Teener, Manhattan