Warning: What Communists are Doing in Hong Kong Threatens Evangelicals
Reduced religious liberty in Hong Kong should concern Americans because America and Hing Kong share a common foe: Communist China.
Greg Torode wrote for Reuters in his article, Nuns arrested as Beijing turns up heat on Church in Hong Kong:
“Senior clerics see the arrests as a sign China wants to shut the unofficial Vatican mission in Hong Kong, where the two nuns work. As Beijing tightens control of the city, the local diocese has also moved to rein in pro-democracy voices in its flock.”
Torode reported on two surprising arrests and tied them together with an overall sense of gloom in Hong Kong with increasing Communist control over the country.
“In May, two Chinese nuns who work at the mission were arrested by mainland authorities during a visit home to Hebei province, according to three Catholic clerics with knowledge of the matter. The nuns, in their 40s, were detained for three weeks before being released into house arrest without being charged. They are forbidden to leave the mainland, according to one of the clerics. Meanwhile, Western diplomats say, Chinese security agents have stepped up surveillance of the mission in recent months.
The arrests, which haven’t been previously reported, are viewed by top clerics here and in the Vatican as a sign Beijing wants the mission shut. It lacks official standing because the Holy See and China haven’t established formal diplomatic ties. While priests are sometimes arrested on the mainland, “it is highly unusual for nuns to be detained,” said another of the clerics, who has long-time contacts on the mainland. “Normally they are left alone.”
The pressure is also being felt at the heart of the Church in Hong Kong, by the leadership of the large local diocese.”
Democrat Governors in the Democrat States especially has taken a page from the Communists in controlling the church.
Since the Pandemic shut down most Christian Churches in the United States, by force, under restrictions about crowd sizes, Americans are seeing the Government taking control of American churches.
During the first week of December, a Pastor was fined for being opened.
NBC News reported:
“A northern California church and its pastor were found in contempt Tuesday for repeatedly defying a court order to stop holding unmasked indoor gatherings and violating Covid-19 health orders, officials said.
“I respect the judge, I understand what the laws are, but there’s a bigger law,” Mike McClure, head pastor of Calvary Chapel San Jose, said, according to video from NBC Bay Area. The church was fined around $55,000, the station reported.
The Santa Clara County district attorney and the county counsel sued in October after they said the church had been holding indoor services involving hundreds of people not wearing masks, in violation of health orders aimed at slowing the spread of the deadly disease.
In early November a court granted a temporary restraining order, and both the church and McClure repeatedly violated it, the county said in a statement.
Santa Clara County Counsel James R. Williams said in a statement that the church is putting the whole community at risk.”
Arresting Pastors is still a debatable practice in the United States, fortunately, unlike Hong Kong, which serves as a warning for the United States of what will happen without vigilance.
Does the American Church have an actual legal framework for continuing to operate in-person during a pandemic? Here’s my soapbox answer. https://t.co/YTMfo3Ngtl
— Tanner DiBella (@tannerdibella) January 1, 2021
Tanner DiBella, President of The American Council for Evangelicals. Communications Director for Destiny Church wrote in a piece for Medium some ideas for Americans to think about:
Does the Church have a legal right to gather in the midst of a pandemic?
This question has been asked and debated since March of 2020 with little collective clarity on the subject. Opinions raging with emotion cannot answer this question, but the Constitution of the United States can.
Clergy, legal pundits, and religious scholars have pointed and debated the basis what the First Amendment of the Constitution provides to religious institutions during a time of crisis.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Constitution of the United States, Article I
When you begin to pull at the threads of this masterpiece, one phrase stands out: free exercise thereof.
The phrase is under the legal framework of what pundits refer to as the Free Exercise Clause. It’s implications for religious institutions, their sovereignty of action, and their autonomy are fascinating.
Michael William McConnell is a constitutional law scholar who served as a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit from 2002 until 2009. Since 2009, McConnell has served as a professor and Director of the Stanford Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School.
In 2002, he published “Religion and the Constitution” with a group of legal scholars to provide a sound understanding of the relationship between government and religion within the framework of the Constitution. What he notes about this Free Exercise Clause should provide a sigh of relief to clergy and churches across America:
The Clause protects not just religious beliefs but actions made on behalf of those beliefs. More importantly, the wording of state constitutions suggest that “free exercise envisions religiously compelled exemptions from at least some generally applicable laws.” The Free Exercise Clause not only protects religious belief and expression; it also seems to allow for violation of laws, as long as that violation is made for religious reasons.
Michael McConnell not only claims that the Free Exercise Clause protects the rights of Americans to engage in religious rituals but also gives the Church sovereignty in its expression, even if that expression violates the law.
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