We now have data to show that, as government leaders forced closures of houses of worship amid the pandemic, their constituents faced real-world harm. For instance, the religious reported a 4.1 percentage point rise in self-isolation.
A year ago this month, Orthodox Jews from Brooklyn were taking to the streets in fiery protests against then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s restrictions on religious services, ultimately seeing those rules struck down by the Supreme Court ahead of Hanukkah and Christmas.
Later, at Easter time, a pastor in Alberta would be arrested and held in jail for holding illegal church services, coming out of custody to warn, “They are doing this to me. They are going to come after you. It’s just a matter of time.”
These are just two of many stories of the overlooked struggle of religious leaders to confront shutdowns that have hindered religious celebration throughout the past 18 months. With another holiday season on the horizon, it’s worth reflecting on the toll congregants have paid when houses of worship are shuttered. New research paints an alarming picture.
Christos A. Makridis is an adjunct scholar at the Manhattan Institute. He is also a research professor at Arizona State University and the chief technology officer and head of research of Living Opera, an arts and education technology startup.
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