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Truth Wins Out demands that state and national authorities immediately stop conferring special rights to Born Again Christians. For the sake of public health and saving lives, it is time for government to abandon their leniency and shut down Christian campuses and church services that threaten to serve as breeding grounds for COVID-19 transmission.

The rest of us are sacrificing, complying with the law and doing our civic duty, while these self-centered zealots flout the law because they think they are blessed and better than everyone else. If these extremists refuse to protect themselves and their neighbors, it’s time for the authorities to storm their churches and disperse their ill-advised and often illegal gatherings.

On March 29, the New York Times reported that Jerry Falwell Jr. ignored warnings about the coronavirus and reopened Liberty University, a Christian college where 15,000 students study at the Lynchburg campus. The Daily Beast reports that nearly a dozen Liberty University students are now sick with COVID-19 symptoms.

I guess their thoughts and prayers are working as well as they usually do.

While the Lord may work in mysterious ways, COVID-19 doesn’t. People need to stay away from each other, so the disease won’t spread. Keeping social distance also ensures that hospitals won’t be overwhelmed. When there are more patients than respirators, doctors and nurses have to set up death panels, deciding who lives and who dies.

Thanks to the failures of Donald Trump, hospitals don’t have enough beds, masks and respirators. So, it’s even more important that we all take personal responsibility and act ethically to save lives. There can’t be right wing evangelical exceptions to the rule, or we all will suffer.

Tragically, Falwell is not alone. Across the nation, right wing Christians act as if there are two sets of rules. One set for the majority of Americans. Another set for themselves, under the guise of religious liberty.

The Los Angeles Times reports that in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Pentecostal preacher Tony Spell of Life Tabernacle Church, defied the governor’s order for people to stay home and held a church service. According to the article, he leaped into the pews, paraded, hugged and laid hands on worshipers’ foreheads in prayer. He declared from the pulpit:

“We’re free people. We’re not going to be intimidated. We’re not going to cower, We’re not breaking any laws.”

The Los Angeles Times also reported that the Mount Vernon Presbyterian church choir continued to practice amid the state’s outbreak. Sixty singers participated – and a couple weeks later, 45 were diagnosed with the coronavirus.

TMZ reports that a The River Church in Tampa was “packed to the gills with worshipers” to listen to the preaching of megachurch pastor Rodney Howard-Browne. The pastor has reportedly claimed he’ll cure coronavirus just the way he did with Zika. Howard-Browne said on March 17:

“We are not stopping anything. I’ve got news for you, this church will never close. The only time the church will close is when the Rapture is taking place.”

You know what, my parents live in South Florida. How many of these cult members are going to drive down to where my parents live in the next few weeks – potentially putting their lives at risk? It’s outrageous that these extremists don’t follow the rules, and in some cases, could very well be getting away with murder.

Meanwhile, non-fundamentalist citizens are now getting arrested for not following the rules. A Maryland man was thrown in jail for hosting two parties, including one with an estimated 60 revelers. As the New York Daily News points out, he will now be doing his social distancing behind bars. In Barcelona, the New York Post reports, undercover cops rounded up eight people accused of violating the lockdown by organizing a drug-fueled orgy.

Meanwhile,The Guardian reports that churchgoers all over the world are ignoring social distancing advice. For example, Sunday services were held at some of Russia’s largest religious sites after Orthodox church leaders said they were an expression of religious freedom.

In the countries Romania and Georgia, according to The Guardian, some priests are continuing to use a shared spoon for a communion ritual. In Brazil, the homophobic, evangelical president, Jair Bolsonaro – called the coronavirus a “little flu” and included churches in a list of “public services and essential activities” that were essential for the “survival, health and safety” of the population. It was left to sensible judges in Brazil to suspend this reckless order.

We keep hearing those terms, “religious freedom” and “religious liberty.” Normally, we hear it when right wing Christians don’t want to follow secular laws that forbid discrimination against LGBT people. Now, they are cynically employing the empty phrases to give themselves a free pass to infect people with the coronavirus.

The rest of us are sick and tired of this double standard. There should not be one set of laws for right wing Christians, and another set for everyone else. It’s time the faithful be held accountable for their actions. It’s time to arrest these pastors and their staff members if rules and laws are broken. Clearly, what they are doing is irresponsible. It’s reckless endangerment and if people die, I believe it’s manslaughter.

This obnoxious, self-serving behavior is nothing new. During the Black Plague, radical Christian cults paraded through the streets of Europe infecting countless people. The authorities urged social distancing then too. These zealots ignored their warnings and as a result the streets were littered with dead bodies.

Apparently, they have learned nothing from history. They remain impervious to facts and evidence and continue their anti-science agenda. This has included my work, in fighting their dumb and destructive programs to have people “pray away the gay.”

Most troublesome, is that many of these backward, medieval minds think death is OK because they get to go to heaven. They think it’s God’s will. They believe they’re martyrs to a cause. They fantasize about sitting on a cloud and playing a harp with the angels. And, hey, if they want to hasten Jesus calling them home, I wouldn’t have a problem with it.

But I do have a huge problem with their behavior, because they are a public health menace that will infect people who don’t share their dangerous, apocalyptic beliefs. It’s not like these folks locked themselves inside their churches on Sunday to remain cloistered until death.

No, after their services were over, they left and filtered back into the community – the rest of us be damned. They drank the poison-laced Kool-Aid and now they are forcing us to drink it too, whether we like it or not. To these zealots, our families are simply casualties and collateral damage in their larger holy war.

On behalf of those who enjoy living and breathing on planet earth. On behalf of those who actually like it here and want to live out our natural lifespans, ENOUGH ALREADY. It’s time for the authorities to step in and force these outlaws to comply with the rules, or they need to be arrested and put in jail, for the safety, health and well-being of the public. Born Again Christians don’t get special rights.

UPDATE: The aforementioned Pastor Howard Browne of Tampa’s River Church has been arrested by the Hillsboro County Sheriff’s Department. There was a warrant for his arrest for unlawful assembly. That’s a great place to start. Now, put the rest of these reckless renegades in jail before it’s too late.

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