COVID-19 and the Wall between Church and State



The debate over and balance between church and state has reentered the public conscience of the nation at a rate rivaled only by COVID-19 itself. From Supreme Court petitions by churches in California to outright defiance by those in Minnesota, the “wall between church and state” appears to be as porous as ever.

Politicians who love to quote this phrase while attempting to excise morality from the legislative process betray its original context in so doing. In his letter to the Danbury Baptists, Thomas Jefferson utilized the “wall between church and state” expression while assuring a religious community that government would not interfere in matters religious. Two hundred years later, however, secular leaders in some states are doing just that.

For example, in states like Minnesota, where entire industries have been given the green light to reopen based on building occupancy percentages, Governor Walz still refuses to lift the ban on religious gatherings of more than 10 people. Apparently, Walmart employees are somehow more adept at maintaining social distancing among customers than are physical barriers in the form of church pews among parishioners.

When government guidelines are as blatantly nonsensical and self-contradictory as those in Minnesota, how can they be perceived as anything but anti-religious? Thomas Jefferson wrote his letter to the Danbury Baptists to ameliorate their worries about future policies such as these. The Sage of Monticello must be rolling in his grave.

Ryan Bilodeau, Concord, NH

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