DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - There is growing fear in America that Wuhan virus shutdown measures are a venture into tyranny — and might signify a new normal.
Americans tend to approve of the way their local government is handling the Wuhan virus crisis, but many are also concerned about government orders going too far, according to a recent Rasmussen poll of 1,000 likely U.S. voters.
The poll found a majority of likely voters — 64% — are either "very concerned" or "somewhat concerned" that the government's response may be worse than the pandemic itself. It also found 59% rated the Wuhan virus response by their local and state governments as either "excellent" or "good."
Concerns about government overreach were voiced after Texas hair stylist Shelley Luther was arrested and sent to jail for keeping her hair salon open in violation of government lockdown orders. Luther refused to apologize for keeping her business open, claiming she and her employees were struggling to feed their families during this time of crisis. Amid widespread media attention last week, the Texas Supreme Court ordered Luther's release from jail.
There was also controversy last month over a video appearing to show police officers arresting a mother in front of her children at a park in Idaho. She and her children were one of several families who violated an order closing playgrounds at public parks. Officers say she refused their requests to leave the facility and was noncompliant, according to a report in the Idaho Statesman.
At the start of April, New York governor Andrew Cuomo predicted the United States will never "get back to normal" after the Wuhan virus pandemic subsides.
In late April, New York City's mayor Bill de Blasio ordered police to disperse a crowd of Orthodox Jews gathered for a rabbi's funeral. De Blasio was widely criticized for comments threatening similar actions against "the Jewish community, and all communities" that violate New York's social distancing rules.
In Washington State, Gov. Jay Inslee recently amended his ban on religious gatherings to allow for private, one-on-one Bible studies and prayer meetings after a man filed suit.
Stories like these are causing some commentators to be skeptical of government rules shutting down businesses and enforcing social distancing.
"Public Health Agencies Care More About Controlling You Than Prepping For Pandemics," reads one headline from conservative commentary website The Federalist.
Thomas Smith of RealClearPolitics has written about the "stress pandemic" caused by coronavirus stay-at-home orders. In a piece on Sunday, he noted how some local governments are using the crisis to justify far-reaching restrictions on citizens' day-to-day lives:
The mayor of Champaign, Illinois asked the city council to give him the power to confiscate property. Confiscate property to attack a virus? The governor of Michigan forbade the citizens of her state from traveling from their houses to their vacation homes, from taking their boats out. Are the highways and lakes of their beautiful lake-filled state so overrun with virus that it can infiltrate a car or a boat as it speeds along?
Smith referenced cases of alleged police brutality during the enforcement of social distancing laws. For instance, footage from New York City, widely shared online, appears to show a plainclothes officer repeatedly punching a man in the head while trying to arrest him. According to reports, the man was arrested after he "took a fighting stance against the officer."
To close his article, Smith addresses government leaders:
But your dictating, your shutting down the economy, your lack of respect for voters, has produced a potentially more devastating pandemic than COVID-19 itself. Get out of the way. It is not a sign of weakness to recognize that the government does not have all of the answers. No one does. Open the economy as quickly as prudently possible.
As discussions of government overreach continue, Vatican whistleblower Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò is calling on people of goodwill to resist government tyranny amid the Wuhan virus crisis.
He argues in an open letter dated May 3, "Public health must not and cannot become an alibi for infringing on the rights of millions of people around the world, let alone for depriving the civil authority of its duty to act wisely for the common good."
Archbishop Viganò's letter was signed by a number of leading Catholic prelates, writers and immunologists, among others.
"The state has no right to interfere, for any reason whatsoever, in the sovereignty of the Church," Viganò stated. "Ecclesiastical authorities have never refused to collaborate with the state, but such collaboration does not authorize civil authorities to impose any sort of ban or restriction on public worship or the exercise of priestly ministry."
For Catholics, an especially devastating part of the Wuhan virus pandemic has been the loss of access to Mass and the sacraments.
In March, every single Catholic diocese in the United States instituted a ban on public Masses. The ban is beginning to soften in some dioceses especially in sparsely-populated rural areas, where the disease is less likely to spread, but the vast majority of U.S. Catholics remain unable to be physically present for Sunday Mass.
While there is anger among Catholics at the government lockdown, there is also ire directed at bishops for so readily complying with secular authorities. An anonymous contributor to The Federalist recently opined, "The American bishops' decision to withhold the sacraments ... forsakes the examples of the saints, forsakes the vows of the Church and runs exactly contrary to Christ's chastisement of the Pharisees and His challenge to the apostles to 'put out into the deep.'"
In addition to the ban on public liturgy, some dioceses have gone so far as to restrict confessions and baptisms as well as to prohibit Churches from keeping their doors open for private prayer.