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Sen. Scott: Doesn’t matter what governor, president or local leaders say, Bill of Rights guarantees worship

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Sen. Rick Scott pushed back on Sunday against mostly blue-state governors and mayors who claim to have the authority to prevent citizens from attending in-person church services, saying that the Constitution’s First Amendment says otherwise.

In an interview with CNN, the Florida Republican said that he “trusts” Americans to “do the right thing” when it comes to protecting themselves during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“It doesn’t matter what a governor says or president or local leaders,” Scott told host Dana Bash.

“We have the Bill of Rights. We have a right to worship. We have a right to get together, and respect — and we need to respect people’s religions,” he added.

“Do I believe that government should be telling us what to do? Do I believe government can tell us we don’t have a right to worship? I don’t believe they can,” Scott added. “I have the Bill of Rights, I have the right to worship at a church service if I want to do it. I don’t believe they have a right to stop me.

“All Floridians, all Americans, have a Bill of Rights, and we have a right to worship if they want to. I believe people are going to do it safely,” the former Florida governor said. “This is America, we have rights in the country. We have the Bill of Rights. Follow it.”

President Donald Trump on Friday emphasized that religious services are essential and protected under the nation’s founding document in demanding that governors and mayors allow them to take place.

“The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now,” said the president. “For this weekend. If they don’t do it, I will override the governors. In America, we need more prayer, not less.”

It’s not clear how the president could immediately override state governors, but U.S. Attorney General William Barr has said the Justice Department could take legal action against some states if their leaders continued to suppress their residents in unconstitutional ways, even in the name of trying to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Bash asked Scott if he thought people who venture out in public should be wearing masks.

“Do I believe people ought to wear masks? Yep, I do believe people ought to wear masks. Do I believe people ought to social distance? Yep, I believe people ought to social distance,” he said.

“Do we need the president, the governors, and all the local officials to tell us how to lead our lives every day? No. We’ll figure this out. We want to keep our families safe. We want to keep our friends safe. And we’re going to do this in a safe manner,” he added.

“I trust the American public. I think they’re gonna make good decisions.”

Swedish leaders and health officials have said they don’t believe the wearing of masks is effective against the spread of the virus and instead provide a “false sense of security.”

In any event, as to in-person church services, federal courts have, amazingly, split on whether a governor has the authority to ban them during the coronavirus health emergency. Earlier this month, a federal judge in California — a George W. Bush appointee — ruled that California Gov. Gavin Newsom has the authority to shutter churches during a pandemic.

But days later, a federal judge in Kentucky ruled Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s ban on in-person church services unconstitutional.

The Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees both the right to worship freely and to assemble, without caveats or cut-outs for states operating under certain social conditions like war or an outbreak of disease.

Jon Dougherty

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