Public Advocate Advisory Letter on Religious Liberty: NO GOVERNMENT ENTITY HAS ANY JURISDICTION OVER CHURCHES
Public Advocate Advisory Letter on Religious Liberty
to Attorney General William Barr
NO GOVERNMENT ENTITY HAS ANY JURISDICTION OVER CHURCHES
Eugene Delgaudio, president of Public Advocate of the U.S. Inc. today thanked Attorney General William Barr, in a letter, for defending religious liberty and taking action to prevent discriminatory
actions by some state and local leaders in attacking lawful Christian churches. Delgaudio also warned about "falsely claiming powers at the federal level that are not allowed under the Constitution."
Delgaudio says today: "Christians did not surrender their rights permanently and even in a pandemic, Public Advocate pays heed to the American constitution. The federal
government, and no state or locality has "no jurisdiction" over God or any defined power to eliminate religious liberty practices. We have now pointed that out in an advisory letter addressed to Attorney General William Barr."
The Public Advocate Advisory Letter to AG Barr states in part: (Quote)
"........We thank you for your recent actions in protecting the religious liberties of all Americans against discriminatory actions by certain state and local government officials during the COVID-19 pandemic,........... This defense of the free exercise of religion is much needed, as many state governors and mayors are using COVID-19 to impose unconstitutional burdens against churches, demonstrating their personal hostility to Christianity..............
"....(W)hile Public Advocate appreciates your defense of religious liberties, we believe that your statement of April 14, 2020 reflects an incorrect understanding of the limits of government power over the church. Your statement correctly asserts that: "government may not impose special restrictions on religious activity that do not also apply to similar nonreligious activity.... Religious institutions must not be singled out for special burdens."
However, your statement implies that, whenever the government has a "compelling reason to impose restrictions on places of worship" and those restrictions "are narrowly tailored to advance its compelling interest," the state may abridge the Free Exercise of religion.
This may be a correct statement of what Congress and some federal judges have done narrowing the Free Exercise Clause to a guarantee to tolerate religious expression and actions - unless the government has a compelling interest.
Late last week, Public Advocate took our own action to support religious liberties during the pandemic, assisting another organization (the Conservative Legal Defense and Education Fund) in the filing of an amicus curiae brief in Russell County, Virginia, in support of a challenge against Virginia Governor Ralph Northam's executive orders prohibiting religious gatherings in the case of Hughes v. Northam, Amicus Brief (Apr. 9, 2020). In that brief, we provide a historical analysis of the Free Exercise Clause, which demonstrates that the reason that the government may not burden its exercise is that the government has no jurisdiction whatsoever over the church in its assembling for religious services or in the doctrine it teaches.
As this amicus brief explains, the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment imposes a jurisdictional limitation on government, and takes the power to prohibit church assemblies completely out of the hands of government - federal, state, or local.
The text of your speech at Notre Dame Law School brilliantly captured this concept when you described James Madison's 1785 pamphlet "Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments" where you correctly stated:
James Madison described religious liberty as "a right towards men" but "a duty towards the Creator," and a "duty&.precedent both in order of time and degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society."
Those few words explain the entire concept. Truly, we Americans are subject to "the claims of Civil Society," but we also have a prior and superior "duty towards the Creator." And our government officials also must operate within that same structure - even during a declared emergency......." (End of quote)