On April 10, a pastor appeared on Carlson’s show to accuse the city government of Greenville, Mississippi, of anti-Christian harassment because it did not allow drive-in church services.
Senator Rand Paul on April 10 tweeted an attack on Kentucky’s warning that people who attended large services on Easter could face tickets and quarantine orders: “Taking license plates at church? Quarantining someone for being Christian on Easter Sunday? Someone needs to take a step back here.”
The Fox News host Jeanine Pirro on April 15 praised Michigan protesters who resisted an unnamed “them” who “want to keep us away from churches and synagogues.”
On April 18, Donald Trump retweeted this complaint about Easter restrictions:
Let’s see if authorities enforce the social-distancing orders for mosques during Ramadan (April 23–May 23) like they did churches during Easter.
At a press conference that day, Trump was invited to explain himself, and he did:
I am somebody that believes in faith. And it matters not what your faith is, but our politicians seem to treat different faiths very differently, and they seem to think, and I don’t know what happened with our country, but the Christian faith is treated much differently than it was, and I think it’s treated very unfairly.
He added: “They go after Christian churches, but they don’t tend to go after mosques.”
All of this might seem performative victimhood as usual, but on April 27, Attorney General William Barr issued a directive to the 93 U.S. attorneys and the civil-rights division of the Department of Justice to be “on the lookout” for state regulations that discriminate against religious institutions and religious believers.
The sense of persecution that pervades conservative talk has jumped to sway federal law enforcement.
It needs to be stressed at the outset that almost all faith groups in the United States have voluntarily and responsibly complied with public-health restrictions. Two dozen Muslim groups signed a statement on the eve of Ramadan urging Muslims to celebrate the holy month in rituals at home, not in mosques or Islamic centers. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints suspended all services worldwide on March 12. Catholic churches likewise suspended public Mass. Cellphone records confirm that the large majority of Christian worshippers marked Easter at home.
But human nature being what it is, people will predictably resist even sensible rules for their health. Hundreds of New Yorkers crowded together to watch a hospital ship dock, which would seem about the ultimate in self-defeating behavior. Police in many states have issued warnings and fines to enforce social distancing. People have been arrested for hanging out on Brooklyn street corners in too large numbers. People have been fined for gathering in large groups on Los Angeles beaches. (California Governor Gavin Newsom is warning of even stricter enforcement if rules are broken over this warm weekend.) And people have faced sanctions, including fines and arrest, for defying rules against religious assemblies.