This has got to be one of the most dumbfounding [we're tempted to drop the "founding"] statements made by a member of the liberal media regarding the coronavirus.
On his MSNBC show this morning, Ali Velshi suggested that by deeming houses of worship "essential," thus qualifying them to reopen, President Trump could be in violation of the "separation of church and state." Or as Velshi put it:
"Regardless of how that plays with separation of church and state, and even if the president has no authority to issue such a decree, Trump's insistence on a rushed reopening flies in the face of what public health experts continue to advise: that this is not a time to become complacent."
Let's begin by noting that, contrary to Velshi's citation of the "separation of church and state," that phrase is nowhere to be found in the First Amendment. But liberals love to use it in seeking to drive all religion out of the public square.
Here is the actual wording of the relevant portion of the First Amendment:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
The Founders' intent has been clearly understood as prohibiting the establishment of an official state religion, as in the Church of England. President Trump's classification of houses of worship as essential did the very opposite of that. From far establishing one state religion, he said that his order was applicable to all "houses of worship," explicitly including "churches, synagogues, and mosques."
Now let's consider the second part of that portion of the First Amendment: Congress shall make no law "prohibiting the free exercise" of religion. This is where Velshi's statement takes us into Alice in Wonderland territory.
If anyone has been prohibiting the "free exercise" of religion, it's been the governors who have shut houses of worship. Trump's order, to the contrary, had the express intent of permitting those shuttered houses of worship to reopen! It is in the very best spirit of the First Amendment!
Note also Velshi's double standard regarding reopening. In issuing his order, President Trump mentioned that some governors have opened "liquor stores and abortion clinics." That doesn't seem to faze Velshi. No, it's just the "rushed reopening" of houses of worship that vexes Velshi. Now why would that be?
Finally, note the irony of the show's chyron, "Fighting the Facts." Velshi meant that to apply to President Trump -- but as we've seen, it is Velshi himself who fought the facts—and came out on the short end!
Here's the transcript.
8:01 am EDT
PRESIDENT TRUMP: At my direction, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is issuing guidance for communities of faith. I’m identifying houses of worship, churches, synagogue, and mosques as essential places that provide essential services. Some governors have deemed the liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential, but left out churches and other houses of worship. It’s not right. So I’m correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential.
ALI VELSHI: Regardless of how that plays with separation of church and state, and even if the president has no authority to issue such a decree, Trump's insistence on a rushed reopening flies in the face of what public health experts continue to advise: that this is not a time to become complacent.