6/16/20

Today I was able to get an appointment for a haircut tomorrow. I took Penny for her run and bought a few things at the grocery store. Depending when the meeting for the church takes place, I hope to go up Hwy. 1 to where the elephant seals lay on the beach.

San Luis Obispo County Health Officials reported 13 new cases of COVID-19 today, bringing the county’s total to 389 confirmed cases. Officials indicated that the number of patients hospitalized nearly double from yesterday with nine people now hospitalized of which four are in ICU. There are 73 people recovering at home and 306 have recovered. The county has had one death attributed to COVID-19. Paso Robles has the most cases at 132 followed by Atascadero at 59 and Nipomo at 44.

The health department reports at least 15,380 coronavirus tests have been conducted so far at both the public health lab and at private labs. Free coronavirus tests are currently available in Grover Beach, San Luis Obispo, and Morro Bay. The pop-up testing clinic in Morro Bay is open on Thursday, June 18. Next week, the pop-up clinic will operate in Oceano on Monday, June 22, and Tuesday, June 23. It will move to Cambria on Wednesday, June 24, and Thursday, June 25. Appointments are required at all locations.

County Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein said Wednesday that the County Public Health Lab was taking over testing at the pop-up clinics in order to provide faster results. She said the pop-up clinics were originally run by an independent, non-profit vendor, but the organization was unable to provide results in a timely manner. Dr. Borenstein said the results of approximately 300 tests have been delayed or incomplete because of an error at the vendor’s lab. “We continue to increase access to testing in SLO County and now are able to do so through our own laboratory,” said Dr. Borenstein. “We previously used a vendor for other pop-up clinics and were frustrated to see that some tests failed, and many were seriously delayed in their results. To remedy this, our own staff and lab will now provide our residents with timely and accurate test results.”

Today Gov. Gavin Newsom Thursday issued a statewide order mandating the use of facemasks in public, as more counties reconsider their regulations and the state continues to experience an increase in coronavirus related hospitalizations as businesses reopen.

“Science shows that face coverings and masks work,” Newsom claimed in a statement announcing the order. “They are critical to keeping those who are around you safe, keeping businesses open and restarting our economy.”

The order comes as California broadly reopens the economy; in most counties, people can now shop, dine in at restaurants, get their hair done and go to church, among other things. Meanwhile, coronavirus cases are increasing, something the state says is expected as more people get tested. More than 3,400 people were in the hospital as of Wednesday, the most patients hospitalized since April. Overall, there have been 157,000 reported cases in the state, with more than 5,200 deaths as of Thursday.

The order will require people to wear masks when inside or in line for any indoor public spaces, in health care settings like hospitals and pharmacies, while waiting for or riding public transportation and in outdoor spaces where it is not possible to stay six feet apart from other people.

Until now, the Democratic governor had let local governments decide whether to mandate masks, an issue that has become politically fraught as some Americans resist orders to wear them. He said he is issuing the order now because too many people are going out in public without face coverings as businesses, restaurants and other sectors of the economy reopen.

There has been widespread pushback from the more conservative areas of the state over facemasks, with Orange County most recently dropping its rule for wearing them.

Orange County’s public health officer resigned last week after she faced threats over her order that people wear masks, and the county sheriff said he would not enforce it. Los Angeles County requires people to wear masks whenever they are outside their homes, as do San Francisco and Santa Clara counties.

The state’s news release did not say how it would enforce the order or what the penalty would be for people who do not comply. The order also applies to workplaces where people interact with the public, prepare, or package food and share common spaces like hallways and elevators. Office workers would have to wear masks if they cannot physically distance.

The order includes several exceptions, including for outdoor recreation and exercise such as walking, hiking, running, or bicycling. But if people are doing such activities and cannot stay 6 feet apart from others, the state says they should wear masks.

Other exceptions include: Children under 2, people with medical conditions that prevent them from wearing a mask, people who are hearing impaired or communicate with people who are hearing impaired and people obtaining receiving treatments on their nose and mouth. There is also an exception if wearing a face covering would violate workplace safety guidelines.

People eating out at restaurants would not have to wear masks when they are eating and drinking as long as they are 6 feet away from others.

San Luis Obispo County announced it will allow modified wedding ceremonies beginning June 19.

Weddings must follow the state’s guidance for places of worship. Receptions and celebrations are still not allowed.

Ceremonies should be limited to 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer. Outdoor weddings should accommodate a minimum six feet between guests of different households.

The risk of COVID-19 spreading at events and gatherings increases as follows:

  • Lowest risk: Virtual-only activities, events, and gatherings
  • More risk: Smaller outdoor and in-person gatherings in which individuals from different households remain spaced at least 6 feet apart, wear cloth face coverings, do not share objects, and come from the same local area
  • Higher risk: Medium-sized in-person gatherings adapted to allow individuals to remain spaced at least six feet apart and with attendees coming from outside SLO County
  • Highest risk: Large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least six feet apart and attendees travel from outside the local area

Here is a pop quiz on the Constitution. What is the first freedom protected by the Bill of Rights? If you guessed speech or press, then you are close. The first protected freedom is religion.

The two religion clauses in the First Amendment keep the government out of our pockets for religious purposes and out of our churches for all purposes. That was, at least, the intent of the framers.

The tyrannical behavior of many state governors, who have issued executive orders purporting to regulate private behavior on private property – even religious behavior in houses of worship – and in the process have enforced these orders as if they were laws, has ignored this.

In America, governors do not write laws; only legislatures do. There are no pandemic or public health or emergency exceptions in the Constitution.

In my home state of New Jersey, Catholics were permitted – permitted – to attend public Masses last Sunday for the first time in 88 days.

This has deeply troubled many of the faithful, and many non-adherents, who understand the concepts that only legislatures write laws and that no legislature can write a law telling a religious institution when and how to permit worship.

So, who closed all the houses of worship? Why did Catholic bishops dispense with a nearly 1,600-year-old rule – which survived all sorts of wars and pestilence – requiring attendance at Sunday Mass? What became of the wall of separation?

Here is the backstory.     

When first-year law students are asked the meaning of the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause in the First Amendment, they often argue that these clauses mandate a wall of separation between church and state.

Some students even offer to find the “wall of separation” language in the Constitution. They are still looking for it.

While it is accurate to use the wall of separation phrase, it is nowhere in the Constitution or in any federal statute. It was first publicly used in an 1802 letter from President Thomas Jefferson to a congregation of Baptists in Danbury, Conn.

The congregation had written to Jefferson complaining that Connecticut was taxing all landowners to pay for the state-supported Congregationalist Church. They told him that the state regarded their religious freedom as a privilege to be doled out, rather than as an inalienable right as the congregation believed it to be and as he had characterized it and other rights in the Declaration of Independence.

Jefferson understood the values underlying the religion clauses of the First Amendment to mean that while only Congress was prohibited from establishing a church or interfering with worship, the states should not do so either.

In his famous letter, Jefferson opined that the First Amendment erected “a wall of separation between church and state.” To Jefferson, the word “state” in that context meant all governments.

Though the imposition of state taxes to support churches ended during the 19th century, it wasn’t until 1947 that the Supreme Court ruled with clarity that the First Amendment – the language of which only restrains Congress – applies to the states as well.

We know that it does because the 14th Amendment prohibits all states from abridging the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States. The phrase “privileges or immunities” connotes attributes of national citizenship – first among which are a prohibition on government establishing a religion or interfering with its free exercise.

Stated differently, the right to worship or not, and the right not to be charged for someone else’s worship, are personal human rights – as Jefferson called them, inalienable rights.

Now, back to the governors and the bishops.

The governors permitted crowds at Walmart and arrested folks for attending funerals. They permitted thousands of demonstrators in public streets and arrested not one of them for marching without masks or not socially distancing.

My friend Professor John Rao of St. John’s University wrote: “Our troubled world continues along its current revolutionary path with no clear idea as of yet just how far the diabolical disorientation that has been unleashed may go. One thing and one thing alone seems definite to me in the midst of the general uncertainty. With a few very notable exceptions, the leadership of our beloved Church, legitimate though that leadership is, has proven itself to be utterly subservient” to the state.

It was not the governors who shut the churches. It was – with some courageous exceptions – the gutless American Catholic bishops who did so. Never before in the history of America has the Church become an arm of the state. The governors told the bishops to close their churches, and they complied. Their predecessors were martyrs. They are cowards.

That is not rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s. That is rendering to Caesar what is God’s.

Faithful Catholics believe that we consume the Bread of Life at Mass. The bishops have no more moral right to deny us that salvific sacrament than do the governors.

Faithful Catholics also believe that Holy Mother Church is the route to eternal salvation and the Bread of Life is the food for that route. What mother would deny her children food? One in the hands of state-subservient bishops.

When the Supreme Court explained the two religion clauses, it ruled that they prohibit both conspicuous governmental aid to religion and all government interference with it, and all excessive entanglement between church and state.

In another time and place, how different this might have been. One hundred years ago, the Church was outlawed in Mexico and militias hunted down priests. Saying a public Mass then was the functional equivalent of a capital offense. Yet, there were more Masses celebrated for the faithful per day in Mexico in those years than in America in the last 88 days.

The wall of separation insulates our religious beliefs and practices from governmental tyranny. But without episcopal fidelity and courage, the wall crumbles.

Cactus along the road in See Canyon

Fog covers the top of the mountain off of Hwy. 1.

© Copywrite MPFitch

Published by mpfitch

I am a retired disabled veteran and am actively involved with a Baptist Church on the Central Coast of CA. I am a photographer who likes to shoot portraits and scenic photographs.

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