An Open Letter to Governor Roy Cooper
It certainly is amazing in today’s setting, what leaders consider essential during a time of national crisis. To get an accurate definition, I turned to Webster (archaic in the days of Google, but hey, I’m a 70’s baby). The grandaddy of all dictionaries, offers this:
absolutely necessary; indispensable.
Absolutely necessary. Indispensable. Incidentally, I did turn to Google as well, to make sure nothing has changed since I first learned my definitions of three syllable words—nothing has changed. The definition according to the most used search engine in the world, agrees with Mr. Webster.
My reason for validating the meaning of this “word-of-the-day” is to seek understanding in the orders of nearly every state governor that’s issued a stay-at-home order. Also known as Shelter-in-Place, state governors have the power granted by their state constitutions to protect the public in times of crisis. A governor has many advisers, including his staff, Council of State, and federal agencies. Ultimately, the power to issue a declaration of emergency rests entirely in the pen of a governor, or President in case of national emergency. Once signed, the declaration of emergency is enacted and gives the governor direct authority to do that which is most beneficial to that state’s citizens during the time of crisis, with practically no oversight. It gives him extreme maneuverability, that he otherwise would have to go through channels of legislative hoops to get what he wants, whereas during a state of emergency, he defines what is essential and non-essential.
Ah, there’s that word, essential. Remember the definition? Absolutely necessary. Indispensable.
In times of crisis, historically, partisan politics have taken a back seat—we all become Americans again; this is perhaps the only positive to be observed in a state of emergency. It’s quite refreshing. We see little of politicians and more of the populace coming to the aide of their neighbor, the way it should be. Citizens have never failed to follow and support the leadership in time of crisis, this what makes our country unique in the world. Partisan politics for the most part, cease to exist to combat the tyrant facing us, our health, and/or way of life.
Unfortunately, it appears that many politicians feel they are the few that are truly indispensable to our way of life. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The framers of the Constitution (state and national), intended for elected officials to be replaced, often. It is the populace of our state and country that are indispensable. Politicians are a dime a dozen, but the American worker is absolutely necessary for the survival and growth of the American economy.
In addition to his increased authority (of which there is little to no accountability during this time), the governor has the complete trust and power of the state constitution behind him. Thus, he has complete control of state agencies once this declaration is signed, including law enforcement and the national guard (unless nationalized by the President for a national cause), with little to no oversight. This places him in a powerful position as millions of dollars of relief and emergency funds are opened up to his disposal with little to no accountability, by the stroke of his pen. He can only face public scrutiny at the time, if he is blatantly mismanaging the budgets (or in this case, overstepping his boundaries in rights of citizens), even then he’s not held accountable until after the crisis has subsided. Let's be clear: the governor should have the necessary authority in times of a state emergency to do what he deems necessary to provide the citizens of his state, but with such power given to this individual we must be observant, not passive. The framers of liberty wrote, We the People, because it was a document to keep elected official in-check and accountable to them, not their allies or special interests. Thus, we are forced to examine your motives in certain decisions. It is up to the people to make sure that the ointment isn't worse than the disease.
The framers of our Constitution (federal and state), knew there should be no red tape or unnecessary meetings to attend should we have an emergency that required a declaration of state or national emergency, so they vested this power in one branch of government—the executive branch. I am certainly in agreement with our framers, there should not be silly meetings over release of funds when the citizenry is in need. This streamlines the process and speeds up the dispersement of necessary relief and coordinated efforts for the good of the people. When you stop to think about it, our constitutional framers did well. Their intentions seem pure in the construct of their writing, it was for the people and their welfare.
However, sadly, power can be abused. In the time of crisis, boundaries can become blurred. Whether intentional or not, boundaries are just that—borders that cannot be crossed. Though it is completely logical for a leader of government to recommend what he deems as essential and non-essential services, for the sake of safety for the populace, it is totally illogical for the elected official to deem services such as abortion clinics and liquor stores as essential. This certainly gives the appearance of feeding a partisan agenda rather than having the best interest of the people in mind. In short, the terms essential and non-essential, when pertaining to goods and services cannot be redefined by a government official in a state of emergency to further a political agenda, or become a tool to control its citizens. To do so, is to betray the oath of that office, the trust of the people, and the very constitution the official has affirmed to uphold and defend. Nevertheless, it is understood that should the need arise, a governor must have the authority to determine what services are most necessary to the public welfare in a state of emergency, it must also be recognized by the official, whether intentional or unintentional, to infringe on the rights of the citizenry is most unlawful. To do so, is a betrayal of the people’s trust and their inalienable rights granted by the Constitution.
While churches in our state are on the essentials' list, it is decreed by the governor that we are not permitted to assemble in churches unless we are compliant with ten and under in attendance. While we are sensitive to a virus that seemingly has no boundaries, it would behoove our governor to realize from his Christian upbringing, you need the Lord’s people praying and assembling. Where is the logic in having people flood stores, abortion clinics, and liquor stores, where the “six feet apart” rule is impossible to fully enforce, and not allowing believers to use their own common sense in attending their church services. I find no logic in this at all, but I do see an agenda being defined by the implementation of these rules. Local churches are beyond necessary for the common good, they are indispensable to the spiritual and emotional well-being of the nation. America and this state, needs the Church of Jesus Christ. They need our prayers, our support, and any godliness that we may have produced by the teachings of the Word of God.
History has proven in times of crisis, presidents, governors, and local leaders have turned to pastors for prayer, guidance, counsel, and support. History also gives ample accounts of leaders that hated God, His Church, and His people. Their rule was short-lived and many times ended in tragedy due to their prideful and blatant defiance of God. The Bible is filled with leaders who honored and defied God—He certainly honors those who will honor Him and He destroys those who will dishonor Him.
I am a pastor, not a lawyer. I abide by the law. I am currently an interim pastor and our church has been consistent in abiding by the governor’s orders. We have moved our services online and God is using this. Being interim pastor, I don’t have the final say—this is entrusted to our board of deacons. They are good men, mature in the faith, and I believe they have acted wise during this entire ordeal. They consult me and I support their recommendations and decisions. However, we are more inclined to protect our people than abide by rules issued by a man. As believers, we report directly to God. We believe God created civil government, but if there comes a time that we feel that government is the opposite of what our Lord commands, this is where we part ways. We intend to abide by the laws of man until they disagree with the Word of God. If we feel, discover, or believe that our state or nation is seeking to enslave us, control us, or hinder us, using COVID-19 or any other catastrophic event to their advantage to slight our constitutional right to assemble as God’s people, we will stand in total defiance and follow the Lord.
As believers, we stand ready to help, pray for, and love our neighbor as Christ has com
manded us. We seek to be good Americans and love this country with every fiber of our being. We do not seek trouble, nor do we plan to offend our law enforcement in any way. We support them completely. We seek God on your behalf, asking God to guide you, surround you will godly and wise advisers, and that you would be sustained during these long days of carrying the burdens of leadership. We also are asking that God would give us mercy in these days, and restrain this virus in our world.
However Governor, as citizens of this Nation and State, we remind you that in both Constitutions (national and state), government cannot make any law pertaining to religion. This was placed in these glorious documents to ensure that you can only advise a local church, not make a law pertaining thereof. Period.
With all due respect to your Office, I implore you not to attack the church; verbally, by law, or by force. As a preacher, I implore you not to offend God. How can we collectively pray for His mercy upon our land in the wake of COVID-19, when our governor decrees that abortion clinics and liquor stores are essential?!? This is slap in the face of God and His Word. They are non-essential on our best day. Politics must be forgotten, along with the swag of the day, for the good of the people. As a nation and state, we must do more than wash our hands in the wake of this pandemic, we must cleanse our hearts, which is most essential to our well-being and strength.