Law and Religion Under Pressure:
A One-Year Pandemic Retrospective

A Canopy Forum Thematic Series
April – May 2021

“The Global Pandemic and Government ‘COVID-19 Overreach’”

Paul T. Babie
April 1st, 2021

“March 11, 2021 marked the first anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a global pandemic. During this past year, a staggering 118,268,575 people contracted the virus, while 2,624,677 have died. As the world came to terms with the implications of this international public health crisis, governments the world over imposed restrictions on all forms of public life, including public communal worship…”

“’Even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten:’ Banning Communal Worship Poses Continuing Threats to Religious Freedom”

Charles J. Russo
April 2, 2021

“One can only imagine what James Madison, lead advocate of the First Amendment Religion Clauses, or other American Founders, would say if they could witness the status of religion freedom in the United States. Madison and the other Founders would likely be astonished, perhaps even dismayed, to learn of a United States where strip joints can remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic…”

“Look Down in Lock Down: Good Believers & Good Citizens in Europe amidst the Pandemic”

Andrea Pin
April 5, 2021

“Europe has been an epicenter of the pandemic. It has drawn a lot of attention due to how rapidly and deeply it was affected by COVID-19 shortly after the virus’s discovery in China. What has happened since the outbreak of the pandemic has changed the Old Continent’s face and vision in many ways, and may exemplify how the virus challenges law and religion — as well as how the relationship between the two has been evolving to adapt to the new circumstances. Time will tell if such changes are temporary or here to stay...”

“How an LGBTQ+ Rights Case Could Affect the Response to COVID-19”

Patrick Hornbeck
April 14, 2021

“Here’s a thought experiment. Imagine for a moment that it was last term, rather than this term, when the U.S. Supreme Court heard Fulton v. Philadelphia, the case involving religious foster-care agencies who refused to place children with same-sex parents. Imagine, too, that the justices accepted the Fulton plaintiffs’ invitation to overrule Employment Division v. Smith, the controversial precedent limiting the availability of religious exemptions...”

“Of Bans, Sin, and Reconciliation”

M. Christian Green
April 15, 2021

“Following the murder of eight people in Atlanta, six of them Asian-American women, news broke that the killer Robert Aaron Long had been expelled from his church. At first, speculation about the killer’s motives had focused on the Asian-American identity of the majority of his victims. Since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community have experienced shockingly high rates of violence and hate crimes...”

“Why do restrictions on religious attendance cause ‘irreparable harm’? A Catholic reflection on Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo”

Edward A. David
April 19, 2021

“In Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo (2020), the U.S. Supreme Court held that New York’s religious-attendance restrictions “would lead to irreparable injury” to religious communities and, if enjoined or rejected, “would not harm the public interest.” While the decision largely focused on the state’s unequal treatment of religion, the Court’s brief remarks concerning harm and the public interest merit further attention, particularly from the religious traditions those remarks represent...”

“Fulton and Government-Mandated Vaccinations”

Zachary B. Pohlman
April 21, 2021

“The COVID-19 pandemic recently passed the one-year mark. Despite the predictions of some health officials a year ago, the once-impossible has become reality: we have a vaccine. Actually, multiple vaccines, with over 100 million doses having been administered already. Recent polling shows that three-quarters of American adults have received or are willing to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. This is all great news. But as our country attempts to return to normalcy...”

“Participatory Defense During the Pandemic”

Darrin Sims
April 22, 2021

“Many are still shocked to learn that the United States is the largest jailer in the world. Data shows that the U.S incarcerates about 2 million people annually, and that every three seconds, there is an arrest in the United States. Disturbingly, the carceral state has expanded during the global pandemic. According to the COVID-19 Policing Project, “Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) were 2.5x more likely to be policed & punished for violations of COVID-19 orders than white people...”

“A ‘Bradburian Era’: Media, Technology, and Censorship During the Coronavirus”

Mark Edward Blankenship Jr.
April 23, 2021

“Guy Montag comes home from work each day to greet his wife. The two unfortunately share no intimate connection with each other, nor any Biblical foundation in their marriage. Instead, Montag finds his wife constantly bombarded with flashing screens and television programs of counterfeit relationships and the cultural portrayals of family. Her disillusionment from the meaningless entertainment leaves her feeling indifferent to the people around her...”

“Christian Public Engagement After a Time of Crisis”

Anton Sorkin
April 27, 2021

“The pandemic has been a period of change and reflection. A period where a collective and sacrificial burden was placed on our daily removal with the condition that we remain “empty and silent most of the year.” Now, with the worst seemingly behind us, a newness of life grows imminent – as Americans return to their facile compendium of chores, bred by the programming of our culture and insatiable desires...”

“The COVID Heresy: Denying America’s Constitutional Theology During the Pandemic”

William E. Thro
April 28, 2021

“Constitutional theory and theology often intersect within a society. Theology may inform and influence constitutional assumptions and constitutional theory may shape some aspects of a religious sect’s theology. In this essay, I explain the nature of Constitutional Theology, explore America’s unique Constitutional Theology, and examine the COVID Heresy — our leaders’ denial of America’s Constitutional Theology during the pandemic...”

“Resilience During a Pandemic: What Citizens Teach Us About Faith, Policy and other Questions”

Robin Fretwell Wilson, Ruby Mendenhall, Marie-Joe Noon, Karen Simms, and Sara Buitron Viveros
April 29, 2021

“On March 21, 2020, Americans became shut-ins overnight. Around 245 million people in the U.S. found themselves under stay-at-home orders. In Illinois, where we teach and work, Governor J.B. Pritzker became one of the first few governors to enforce a state-wide stay-at-home order. Following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Pritzker and governors nationwide instituted precautionary measures — mask mandates in public places, appropriate hand hygiene, and social distancing. Our individual worlds shrank to a pinpoint....”

“COVID-19 Vaccines v. Conscientious Objections in the Workplace: How to Prevent a New Catch-22”

Adelaide Madera
April 30, 2021

“Since its outbreak, the COVID-19 health crisis has had a devastating impact not only on our social lives, but also on our political and juridical systems, and it has also generated a deep economic crisis. During the first wave, the lack of effective preventive strategies and scientific uncertainty gave rise to a proliferation of pervasive restrictive measures. But the implementation of vaccines and their massive distribution could be a turning point to stop the spread of the infection...”

“Religious Freedom in Pandemic Times in Europe: A Perspective After One Year”

Alejandro González-Varas
May 5, 2021

“Coronavirus began to spread across the world a year ago, peaking in most EU countries (as well as the United Kingdom) in April or early May 2020. While the amount of COVID transmissions was quite lower in summer than in spring, from this moment on, its intensity has been variable. Legal continence measures have also changed at the rate of the virus. We can see the results of transmissions and deaths as a whole in some national and EU documents...”

“COVID-19 and The Family: Drawing Good and Sacramentality Out of Evil”

Marguerite Spencer
May 7, 2021

“My query began with an observation. During the first spring of the COVID-19 pandemic when we were required to maintain small circles, why was I seeing such large family groupings riding bikes or throwing the ball around on open greenspace? Then it struck me. The answer was quite simple. These are families that have learned, out of duty, to slow down. The older children were not at softball or soccer games, swimming or dance lessons, or maybe even their first jobs...”

“Mask Mandates and the Uses of the Law”

M. Christian Green
May 10, 2021

“Recently, in my part of the world, as in many places across the United States, debates have raged over the enforcement of mask mandates as a measure against COVID-19. My representative, Congressman Clay Higgins, described masks early on as “bacteria traps.” This assertion was apparently based on his former career as a police officer, in which he had observed doctors and nurses in hospitals not wearing masks…”