Andrew Malcolm writes for McClatchy about increasing divisions among Americans over religious services.

In the interest of fighting over just about any conceivable thing, even during a national pandemic, Americans are now arguing about the right to assemble together for religious services.

You need not be a religious zealot to recall something about religious freedom in the First Amendment, just the 10th word, in fact:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

True, that doesn’t say anything about governors, who from the earliest, scariest days of the coronavirus closed churches, restaurants, parks and numerous other public gathering places with lockdown orders to prevent the spread of the deadly invisible virus. …

… With some 39 million neighbors becoming newly unemployed in recent weeks, schools closed, normal living routines destroyed and the economy at a crawl, political pressures are mounting to begin reopening the economy. But what about churches?

Fellow citizens in shorts, flip-flops and maybe masks can wander through Walmart, which, like many such stores, is deemed an “essential service.” But in the eyes of government, sharing faith observances in-person with fellow believers, once a bedrock national assumption, is not. Instead, they were confined to virtual services in private. …

… Here’s where religion makes its lockdown entrance. Surveys find religious adherence has been relatively steady in the U.S. in recent decades except among Catholics, whose adherence has drifted down, and Protestants, whose adherence has plunged from 69% in 1948 to 35% last year.

According to one 2019 survey, 29% of Americans never attend worship services, while 23% go every week. Those who go, however, happen to be heavily Republican.

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