The gathering of Christians for public worship is declared to be an imminent threat to the health of the nation. They continue: “The virus has infiltrated Sunday sermons, meetings of ministers and Christian youth camps in Colorado and Missouri. It has struck churches that reopened cautiously with face masks and social distancing in the pews, as well as some that defied lockdowns and refused to heed new limits on numbers of worshipers.” Apparently there is nothing Christians can do to meet safely. Christian worship is deemed inherently dangerous.
In this morning’s New York Times three staff reporters filed a story datelined “Pendleton, Ore” (odd question—why not use the standard postal abbreviation for Oregon, which has been in use for decades?) and it begins ominously: “Weeks after President Trump demanded that America’s shuttered houses of worship be allowed to reopen, new outbreaks of the coronavirus are surging through churches across the country where services have resumed.” The gathering of Christians for public worship is declared to be an imminent threat to the health of the nation. They continue: “The virus has infiltrated Sunday sermons, meetings of ministers and Christian youth camps in Colorado and Missouri. It has struck churches that reopened cautiously with face masks and social distancing in the pews, as well as some that defied lockdowns and refused to heed new limits on numbers of worshipers.” Apparently there is nothing Christians can do to meet safely. Christian worship is deemed inherently dangerous.
To vindicate their implied causal relationship the reporters survey a series of cases, which amount to little more than anecdotal evidence. Why exactly is it that it is the act of gathering for corporate worship that is responsible for the spread of Covid-19? The authors use the conveniently vague verb: “linked” as in “[m]ore than 650 coronavirus cases have been linked to nearly 40 churches and religious events across the United States since the beginning of the pandemic…”. There is nary a single reference to a scientific study nor do the authors seem to have consulted an epidemiologist or even an omnipotent “Public Health Officer” (with a fine-arts degree). Out of a large number of Americans who profess the Christian faith, who gathered for worship after the lockdown eased, a relatively small number came down with Covid-19, and a very small number died. In the NYT, correlation is causation.
How many cases have there been nationally in the same time period? What else has occurred in that same time period? There have huge protests and even riots, with hundreds of thousands of people smashed together (thus without social distance), many without masks, where there has been singing, chanting, shouting, and beyond reasonable doubt, the emission of particulates into the air and upon other protesters and rioters. Indeed, several public officials and some of the media were quick to conclude that there was no link (since that is the term under debate) between the protests and the renewed surge of the virus but (e.g., this Yahoo News story or this story in D Magazine) but the NYT headline screams: “Churches Were Eager to Reopen. Now They Are a Major Source of Coronavirus Cases.” Cellphone data, says one report, shows no causal relation between the large-scale civil rights protests and the spread of the virus but cellphone data allegedly shows that anti-lockdown protests were a threat to public health. To further illustrate the absurdity of it all, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Gacetti, who asked his Director of Public Health about a possible connection between the recent protests and the spread of Covid-19, admitted that there is a likely connection between the two.
The NYT reporters set their time frame “from the beginning of the pandemic.” As of July 7, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control report that there have been 2,932,596 confirmed Covid-19 cases in the USA. This means that, even if we concede the unproved premise that there is a causal link between returning to worship and the 640 cases, churches are responsible for 0.00021% of all cases. The numerous stories desperately seeking to excuse the protests—because, apparently it is not possible for closely spaced, unmasked, screaming protestors to spread Covid-19 but a church lady breaks social distancing rules once is Typhoid Mary—blame open bars, restaurants, and now church but not the protests. Remember, over 1,000 “health professionals” declared that the protests this Spring and summer were “essential” to public health.