Issue of Personal and Religious Freedom vs Public Health

A question was raised in case of the arrests of 15 men at the funeral of Rabbi Chaim Moshe Strulovics in Ocean County. On Apr 1, Police in Lakewood, N.J., had broken up a funeral at a synagogue, charging 15 men with violating Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order banning large gatherings. The Rabbi had been tested for the novel coronavirus after coming in contact with a person who had the virus.
The New Jersey government is asking its people to forgo traditional religious ceremonies and abandon places of worship during the pandemic. But there have been many incidents in which either religious leaders or groups have defied bans on gatherings.
Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson had asked N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy on why he allowed arrests at religious services to be part of coronavirus quarantine enforcement.

“That’s above my pay grade, Tucker,” Gov. Phil Murphy replied. “I wasn’t thinking of the Bill of Rights when we did this. … We looked at all the data and the science and it says people have to stay away from each other. That is the best thing we can do to break the back of the curve of this virus, that leads to lower hospitalization and ultimately fatalities.” He added that people have to find a different way to worship.

Legal precedent

It should be noted that the prescribed restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic have not really been tested in the courts yet, it is unclear how the courts would rule if it comes before it for consideration.
In the past, Jacobson v Massachusetts, a 1905 US Supreme Court decision, raised questions about the power of state government to protect the public’s health and the Constitution’s protection of personal liberty. The US Supreme Court upheld the Cambridge, Mass, Board of Health’s authority to require vaccination against smallpox during a smallpox epidemic. The Court articulated the view – “… it was the duty of the constituted authorities primarily to keep in view the welfare, comfort, and safety of the many, and not permit the interests of the many to be subordinated to the wishes or convenience of the few.”


Leave a Reply