Judge James Ho, who sits on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, has only served on the bench for two years, but he’s already made a name for himself.
Judge Ho was appointed by President Trump to the Fifth Circuit back in 2018 and was widely seen as an ardent defender of religious liberty.
In a recent concurrence, Judge Ho blasted the double-standard we have seen in recent weeks, where churches are closed but protests with tens of thousands of people are encouraged.
Due to onerous quarantine restrictions, Life Tabernacle Church in Louisiana sued Gov. John Bel Edwards for restricting in-person worship services to just 10 people.
A three-judge panel on the Fifth Circuit decided that the case was moot since Gov. Edwards’ order expired over a month ago. Judge Ho agreed with the decision but wrote separately to address the clear double standard.
“At the outset of the pandemic, public officials declared that the only way to prevent the spread of the virus was for everyone to stay home and away from each other. They ordered citizens to cease all public activities to the maximum possible extent—even the right to assemble to worship or to protest,” Judge Ho wrote.
“But circumstances have changed. In recent weeks, officials have not only tolerated protests—they have encouraged them as necessary and important expressions of outrage over abuses of government power.
“For people of faith demoralized by coercive shutdown policies, that raises a question: If officials are now exempting protesters, how can they justify continuing to restrict worshippers? The answer is that they can’t. Government does not have carte blanche, even in a pandemic, to pick and choose which First Amendment rights are ‘open’ and which remain ‘closed.’”
Indeed, The Daily Citizen wrote earlier this week about New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio who, despite participating in and encouraging protests following the death of George Floyd, has kept Jewish parks closed, threatened to permanently close churches and synagogues and has singled out the Jewish community for quarantine enforcement.
In the Louisiana case, Judge Ho concluded: “If protests are exempt from social distancing requirements, then worship must be too… In law, as in life, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. In these troubled times, nothing should unify the American people more than the principle that freedom for me, but not for thee, has no place under our Constitution.”
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