WVU professors speak about religious freedoms being impacted by COVID-19

West Virginia

MORGANTOWN, WV (WBOY) – Two West Virginia constitutional law experts and professors spoke about COVID-19 impacting freedom of religion.

America’s population has a large range of the different religions that are expressed everyday and since the pandemic started to spread throughout the country, practicing these freedoms have become difficult.

Law Expert and West Virginia University Professor Anne Lofaso, explained that a line exists between constitutional rights, and the government stay at home orders; and finding the right balance so the two can coexist, is a challenge for every place of worship.

“The governor of all these states are trying to keep us safe. So, I think we need to understand that it’s really important right now we think innovatively of how can we worship.”

Anne Lofaso, Law Expert and West Virginia University Professor

Anne Lofaso and John E. Taylor are constitutional experts and both have released statements expressing the importance of continuing to honor human rights, according to the first amendment of the constitution, while practicing social distancing rules so the community and country can remain safe.

They said that the orders are not a way the government is removing these freedoms from being practiced, but to do so in a way where everyone can stay safe and spiritually healthy.

“We can worship in our homes, we can worship while, it’s comfortable for people to congregate, so they can have people to speak to each other and join in the fellowship,” Lofaso said. “It’s also important they stay healthy, and I believe that God understands that.”

Many churches have turned to the internet as a solution so that services can be streamed, but many people all over West Virginia do not have this access.

Lofaso mentioned alternative ways these local churches can practice their rights, such as multiple services on Sunday to attract smaller crowds and services in the parking lot to maintain the social distancing rules.

“Many states have religious liberty statutes patterned on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and in those states the analysis proceeds a bit differently and the position of churches challenging coronavirus policies would likely be a bit stronger than what I’ve just described.”

John E. Taylor, Jackson Kelly Professor of Law.

“Everything is well-intentioned and based on expert understanding of a virus that we have never had before. It can affect anyone, from very young to very old and, we shouldn’t think that just because we’re safe now, and that we’re healthy, that it may not affect us. And, at the same time, prayer works,” Lofaso said.

In a statement, U.S. Attorney General William Barr said the First Amendment prohibits religious discrimination “even in times of emergency.”

For more information on the experts statements, this release from WVU will provide a further breakdown of religion and labor issues amid COVID-19.

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