Share This Article with a Friend!


The Difference Between Texas And Indiana Republicans

Gov. Eric Holcomb
We’ve already shared some of the more egregious examples of Democrats using the Wuhan virus panic to expand the power of government over the lives of citizen and engage in acts of tyranny ranging from the petty to the grossly unconstitutional.

If these extra-constitutional acts were limited to Democrats we might find a little perverse pleasure in having such a useful campaign issue to be deployed in a future election, but it seems that the Wuhan virus has infected the brains of some Republican governors was well.

That Northeast liberal Republicans such as Massachusetts’ Republican Governor Charlie Baker and Vermont’s Republican Governor Phil Scott should govern like Democrats shouldn’t really surprise us, although it does disappoint us.

But Indiana’s Republican Governor Eric Holcomb is another story. Usually a reliable conservative, the Wuhan virus seems to have released a hitherto well-hidden inner tyrant in Holcomb.

As our friend Joy Pullmann explained in a must-read article in the Federalist, “How one worships is a sacred duty that our laws and traditions have reserved entirely to the individual’s conscience, completely outside of the bounds of government interference.”

Holcomb, however, has decided that this natural right secured in both the Indiana and national constitutions is something he is allowed to waive. Friday afternoon, he demanded that churches perform services according to his edicts or be subject to government punishment.

The governor issued orders telling Christians how worship must be done and with stricter rules than for all other public gatherings. (emphasis ours)

In addition to limiting church services to gatherings of 10 or fewer people, Holcomb also had the temerity to issue edicts about how worship itself could be conducted. To continue serving their communities, faith institutions were directed as follows (numbering ours):

  1. Church buildings and other physical locations for worship should be closed.
  2. Livestream or other virtual services are best.
  3. The minimum number of necessary personnel should be used at all times for any services.
  4. Staff and volunteers who are not speaking should wear masks.
  5. Drive-in services may be conducted only under these conditions:
    1. Attendees must be inside vehicles at all times.
    2. Attendees should not interact physically with clergy, staff or participants in other vehicles.
    3. Vehicles should contain only members of a single household. Do not bring your neighbors or others outside of your household.
    4. Cars must be spaced the equivalent of every other parking spot or approximately 9 feet apart.
    5. No one may exit a vehicle at any time.
    6. Portable bathrooms are not allowed on the premises and no church facilities may be used by attendees.
    7. It is preferred that no communion be distributed.
    8. In instances when communion is distributed, only prepackaged communion may be used and must be prepared and distributed in a manner that meets food safety standards.

In addition, the following individuals were told not to attend:

  1. Persons who are 65 years and older.
  2. Those who have severe underlying medical conditions, like heart or lung disease or diabetes.
  3. Individuals who are sick.

What’s even worse is that Holcomb should know better. He is a graduate of Hanover College, the state’s oldest private college, founded in 1827 to produce Presbyterian ministers and Christian leaders, and his order appears to violate the plain language of the Indiana state Constitution, as well as the Hoosier state’s long tradition of serving as a refuge for Christian minorities, such as the Amish and Mennonites:

All people shall be secured in the natural right to worship ALMIGHTY GOD, according to the dictates of their own consciences, says Indiana’s state constitution. No law shall, in any case whatever, control the free exercise and enjoyment of religious opinions, or interfere with the rights of conscience (emphasis added by Ms. Pullmann).

That Holcomb’s edict governing religious observation at Easter was an attachment to, not a separate Executive Order, is of little consequence in its intended chilling effect on religious observation.

We contrast Governor Holcomb’s actions with those of Republican Governor Greg Abbott of Texas.

At a press conference at the Texas Capitol, Governor Abbott unveiled an executive order encouraging Texans to “limit personal interactions” through April 30 in order to slow the spread of the Chinese coronavirus.

While the order does not mandate a statewide “stay-at-home” policy, as many counties and cities across the state have already done, it does offer guidance on what constitutes an “essential” sector.

Among those “essential” sectors are churches and places of worship.

According to Brandon Waltens of TexasScoreCard.com, churches may continue to hold services—virtually or in person – and they are encouraged to adhere to social distancing guidelines, which includes people keeping a 6-foot distance between each other.

First Liberty, a public interest law firm dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom, has threatened lawsuits against cities that ban “in-person religious gatherings,” forcing the City of McKinney to walk back its onerous restrictions on religious observations.

This new guidance from Gov. Abbott will supersede more strict regulations from localities, like McKinney, that have tried to explicitly ban religious services. You can read Governor Abbott’s Executive Order through this link.

Contrary to some social media posts, Gov. Abbott’s Executive Order wasn’t indifferent to the health threat presented by the Wuhan virus. Guidance for Houses of Worship During the COVID-19 Crisis, was a joint effort with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, and urges that in-person worship follow the White House's coronavirus guidelines. The president’s guidelines include instructing sick people to stay at home, maintaining appropriate distance between people, practicing good hygiene and frequently sanitizing shared spaces and high-touch surfaces, and in Wuhan virus hotspots local health officials are empowered to shut down all public gatherings.

Notice that the suggestions in Gov. Abbott’s Guidance are the least restrictive means of burdening religious practice, they allow houses of worship to stay open for ministry, but suggest ways that help stop the spread of COVID-19: There are no threats of arrest, no specifications for the details of religious observation, such as specifying the form of the host for Communion and no rules that don’t apply to any other “essential business.”

We thought that the Republican Party was the Party of constitutional limits on government, but the panic created by the COVID-19 “epidemic” and the extra-constitutional actions of Republican public officials, such as Indiana’s Governor Eric Holcomb, have revealed that the urge to tyranny is not bound by political affiliation and in the end can only be constrained by the fidelity to the Constitution of individual office holders, such as Texas’ Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton.

CHQ Editor George Rasley is a 1974 graduate of Hanover College whose family has lived in Indiana for seven generations. A member of American MENSA he served on the staffs of Hoosier-born Vice President Dan Quayle and the late Governor of Indiana Robert D. Orr and Senator Richard Lugar. He also served on the staff of two members of Congress from Texas: Mac Thornberry and Jeb Hensarling.

Share this

The Difference Between Texas and Indiana Republicans

I live in Austin. TX; our bishop has decreed that all churches are to be closed until April 30. I do not know if this is world wide; i.e. Pope Francis made the decision or just the Diocese of Austin.