Starting in March 2020, local and state governments, at the behest of the federal government, forcibly closed churches and schools ostensibly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Children were shut out of schools and locked away at home for over a year in some states. Various states also prohibited 100% of in-person worship services. To date, not a single person has been held accountable for these overreaching, life-altering, culture-changing policies.

Knowing what we know about the virus now, we should unequivocally declare: Overbearing government restrictions and society-wide lockdowns were the wrong approach.

Various government officials used the pandemic to:

  • Close down churches and all schools (public and private), while keeping casinos, pot shops, liquor stores and bike shops open.
  • Entirely prohibit in-door worship services.
  • Ban religious gatherings of any sizes, including bible studies with fewer than 10 people, while permitting retail, grocery, media and cannabis establishments to remain open.
  • Forcibly mask and vaccinate young students to attend in-person school, while exempting patrons of strip clubs and bars.
  • Make religion a “second-class” right.
  • Facilitate the greatest transfer of wealth from the poor and middle-class to the rich in history.
  • Enact “vaccine passports” to restrict the freedom to travel and conduct business.
  • Permanently close hundreds of thousands of small businesses.
  • Kick out hundreds of servicemembers who had medical or religious objections to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Force millions of Americans to pick between a vaccine injection and the ability to put food on their table.
  • Censor the speech of thousands of Americans who did not accept the government-approved narratives on the origins of COVID-19 and the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines.

In a November 2020 speech to the Federalist Society, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito nicely summarized the American people’s experience in 2020.

“The pandemic has resulted in previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty,” Justice Alito said. “We have never before seen restrictions as severe, extensive and prolonged as those experienced for most of 2020.”

He added,

Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women. When it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can do much to help it.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch has also warned about the far-reaching consequences of the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an eight-page opinion issued in 2023, the justice wrote,

Since March 2020, we may have experienced the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in the peacetime history of this country. Executive officials across the country issued emergency decrees on a breathtaking scale. …

We do not need to a confront a bayonet, we need only a nudge, before we willingly abandon the nicety of requiring laws to be adopted by our legislative representatives and accept rule by decree.

It will never be possible to quantify the spiritual and relational harm done by our governing elites who closed churches and schools. Many families became intensely divided – sometimes permanently – over the issue of masking and vaccines. (Though, we know and trust that God redeem all things).

But we can quantify the surge in mental illness and the enormous – and irreversible – loss in learning that occurred because of lockdown policies.

The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns occurred just three years ago. Sometimes, it can feel like three lifetimes ago.

The next time we’re faced with a virus like COVID-19 with unknown origin and low lethality – and make no mistake, there will be a next time – we should make one thing clear: We will not let government officials close churches and schools ever again.

Related articles and resources:

Focus on the Family: Faith

Enough with the Online Worship Excuse – Go Back to Church

Photo from Getty Images.