When Churches Say No to the Government by Michael L. Brown for Ask Dr Brown
There is precedent in Scripture for godly people saying no to the governing authorities. There are times when, to use the words of Peter, “We must obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29). Is today one of those times?
One of the slogans of the American Revolution was, “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” Is our government being tyrannical when it forbids us to gather? Is this the right time to rebel, despite the Bible’s clear teaching that, generally speaking, we are called to obey the authorities? (See Romans 13.)
Let’s examine this from several angles.
First, are local authorities guilty of unconstitutional overreach and/or uneven enforcement of the laws?
In some cases, the answer is yes. This happened in Greensboro, North Carolina, where pro-life workers were arrested for praying outside of an abortion clinic.
As announced on April 3, “Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter Thursday to the city of Greensboro on behalf of pro-life advocates whom police arrested for engaging in peaceful prayer outside an abortion facility. As the letter explains, the arrests should not have occurred because the pro-life volunteers, who are members of the Christian ministry Love Life, were in compliance with a Guilford County emergency proclamation related to the coronavirus crisis.”
North Carolina’s Governor Cooper had determined that abortion clinics provide “essential services” and so should remain open. Love Life believes that, as long as babies are being killed in the womb, they should be there to offer an alternative. So, several workers, with their attorney, showed up at the clinic, following the states safety guidelines to a tee. Their arrest was unjust. The pro-lifers did the right thing.
A second, closely related question is this: Do churches provide “essential services”? In that case, should any of their activities be shut down?
Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne felt that the state of Florida was being inconsistent in its application of the law, allowing crowded stores to remain open but forcing churches to close. (He also felt this violated the next question we’ll ask, namely, is the government acting tyrannically?)
Getting national attention, Howard-Browne called for his church to meet, yet went to extreme measures to follow safety guidelines. (For his detailed statement, explaining the lengths to which the church went to preserve safety, see here.)