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Churches closed but strip clubs open?

It’s been a challenging year for Americans, who find themselves not only fighting through the pandemic but also deciding on the very identity and direction of the nation. The way we voted can determine if we remain a free capitalist society or favor a socialist agenda.

The uncertainty is affecting many on a personal level. Last week, a nationwide poll showed that nearly seven in 10 people say they are ending the year despondent, and 65 percent reported experiencing a personal crisis in 2020. That feeling of personal anguish or defeat is also reflected in the spike in mental health statistics.

Sixty-three percent of respondents blamed COVID-19 as the main culprit, but other factors included the destructive racial riots in a number of mostly Democratic-run cities, a bitter and divisive presidential campaign and a major media dominated by liberals who show a bias against conservatives and a hatred for a president with an America-first agenda favoring free capitalist policies.

Power-driven mayors and governors have added to the anguish and misery, closing or restricting businesses and barring activities that people were involved with before the COVID-19 outbreak.

A survey commissioned by blender company Vejo also found that half of all respondents felt too overwhelmed to take proper care of their health. That bleak situation is expected to continue through the winter as inclement weather forces people to spend more time indoors. This is critical since focusing on the things you can control - like being in the sunlight - is a stress reducer and can make you feel better.

Before the pandemic hit, pastors and their houses of worship provided a refuge for those suffering anxiety, depression or loss.

Overreaching mayors like Bill DeBlasio of New York City and governors like Gavin Newsom of California and Andrew Cuomo of New York, however, have imposed lockdown restrictions on religious gatherings.

The Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and two Orthodox Jewish synagogues took Cuomo’s controversial executive order to the Supreme Court and just before Thanksgiving it ruled that even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten.

“The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty,” the court said in its 5-4 opinion. Justice Brett Kavanaugh added that New York’s restriction on houses of worship were not only severe, but also discriminatory.

Citing that New York City ruling, the high court also granted temporary relief to a California church which sued over the state’s restrictions on in-person worship gatherings.

A group of California pastors argued that Gov. Newsom “has continued to discriminate against churches’ religious worship services while permitting myriad nonreligious entities to continue to gather without numerical restrictions inside the same house of worship and in other external comparable congregate assemblies.”

It also accused Newsom of “publicly encouraging and supporting mass protesters, rioters and looters to gather without numerical restriction in blatant disregard for his own orders.” One image showed Newsom with a large group at a restaurant, thus ignoring indoor dining restrictions and proving the hypocrisy.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee jokingly suggested that churches should reopen as a “temporary strip club” since these establishments were exempt from Newsom’s lockdown order.

The church, Huckabee said, could announce their pastor will remove his tie during the sermon, and taking off the article of clothing would qualify it as a temporary strip club.

One church took him up on it. In a service just before Thanksgiving, Rob McCoy, pastor of Pasadena’s Harvest Rock Church, removed his tie during the “striptease” as his congregation cheered him on.

McCoy told the press afterward that locking the churches out while allowing strip clubs to do business was insane, stupid and hypocritical.

“We are finished with your tyranny and we are going to enjoy Thanksgiving and we’re going to worship God,” he declared.

This Christmas season, millions of Christians echo the same sentiments, feeling that the shutdown orders meted out by arrogant, highhanded government officials are unjust and violate their religious liberties.

By Jim Zbick | tneditor@tnonline.com