Drive-Thru Easter Is Now Open

Note: this first appeared in the RightWisconsin Update, our almost daily free newsletter.

So, some good news first. After receiving a letter from The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), and the Wisconsin Family Council in support of WILL’s efforts, Governor Tony Evers clarified his “safer at home” order so accommodations are made for religious observances, including for Good Friday and Easter.

From Evers press release, the following is allowed:

  • Parking lots with congregants staying in cars, avoiding person-to-person contact;
  • Streaming online; and
  • Having small gatherings (fewer than 10 people in each room) with multiple services.

Of course, that will not make everyone happy, and it shouldn’t. It’s very frustrating to me to see the government having the belief it has the power to shut down religious observances, regardless of the reason. We have a First Amendment right to the “free exercise” of religion, and it’s been under assault by various secular authorities and institutions well before the Coronavirus outbreak.

On the other hand, we also know that if we did not ban large gatherings even in churches, the social distancing required to end the Coronavirus would not be observed. David French wrote in The Dispatch about a church that failed to protect its members:

On March 7, a Christian school not far from my home held a fundraiser, an event full of faithful believers gathered for a virtuous purpose. One person in attendance had COVID-19. Now two dozen people at that event have tested positive, including a dear friend of mine. His wife is symptomatic. Several children are also symptomatic. The faith of these Christian believers was no shield against viral infection. 

In an ideal world, Evers would be able to exempt religious institutions entirely from the ban on gatherings while religious leaders would act responsibly and enforce the ban anyway. But as a person of faith, I understand we do not live in an ideal world.

The tension between the state’s need to protect its citizens and our religious liberty is personal to me, especially at this time of year. In 1992, I converted to the Catholic faith. This still surprises my wife because of my very skeptical nature. But my faith, and my relationship with God, has been an important part of my life since then and I always look forward to Easter as a time of renewal.

It’s also a family matter. Not just because of the Easter Bunny and Easter egg hunts that my children have outgrown. My wife sings in the church choir and we also look forward to attending Tenebrae on Good Friday, a favorite activity for my daughter, too. Not being able to hear my wife’s choir on Easter Sunday and not being able to attend Tenebrae is extremely disappointing.

But I was also reminded recently of how my father-in-law was stuck at home at the end of his life with Parkinson’s disease. Unable to attend Mass in person, he continued to watch Mass at home and received a monthly visit from a priest. His faith at the end of life was undiminished by his inability to go to church.

It’s a reminder that faith is more than ceremony, more than holidays, more than just being in a church. It’s about our relationship with God. His Son told us that the most important commandment is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” The second is, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

If we love our neighbors, then we’ll love God even while being separate from our churches for one Easter during a Coronavirus pandemic.

James Wigderson