Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday applauded the nationwide protests against racial injustice while criticizing Democratic leaders for a “double standard” that has kept churches in some areas closed.
“I have no criticism for the millions of Americans who peacefully demonstrated in recent days. Their cause is beyond righteous,” said McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky. “It is the inconsistency from leaders that has been baffling.”
Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio drew McConnell’s frustration.
“It's becoming clear to many Americans ... that our national life during this pandemic has slid toward a double standard,” McConnell said. “For weeks state and local leaders put normal American life totally on ice and asked citizens to prioritize fighting the virus. For weeks, the mainstream media heaped scorn on any small citizen protest, outdoor gathering, or even the suggestion that other important values might require a reappraisal of certain restrictions.
“A month ago, small protest demonstrations were widely condemned as reckless and selfish. Now, massive rallies, that fill entire cities, are not just praised, but in fact are called especially brave, because of the exact same health risks that brought condemnation when the cause was different.”
McConnell said he has “praised the peaceful demonstrations protesting racial injustice and the killings of black Americans.”
“I believe most Americans are ready to consider how the memories of black Americans like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor can move us to continue combating residual racism,” he said.
But Democratic leaders, McConnell said, should not applaud mass protests while continuing to close other gatherings, such as in churches.
“The same governor of Michigan who argued that letting people carefully shop for vegetable seeds ... would be too dangerous during the pandemic now poses for photographs with groups of protesters,” he said. “Here in the District of Columbia, the mayor celebrates massive street protests. She actually joins them herself. But on her command churches and houses of worship remain shut. … Even the largest church buildings in the District are still subject to the 10-person limit for things the mayor deems inessential. The rights of free speech, free assembly and the free exercise of religion are all First Amendment rights. They have the same constitutional pedigree. But apparently while protesting is now permissible, prayer is still too dangerous. Politicians are now picking and choosing within the First Amendment itself.”
Churches and other houses of worship, McConnell said, should be able to meet.
“It's hard to see any rational set of rules by which mass protests should continue to be applauded, but small, careful, religious services should continue to be banned,” he said. “These prominent Democrats are free to let social protests outrank religion in their own consciences if they choose, but they do not get to impose their ranking on everyone else.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Drew Angerer/Staff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.