April 24, 2020

Dear Friend,

We live in extraordinary times. Many of the things that we thought would never happen in our lifetime have happened. In the midst of uncertain times, as my friend and attorney Royal Alexander points out, “fundamental rights and freedoms do not disappear, they actually come to the fore in a more concrete and conspicuous way than in normal times. In fact, (our) rights are most important in times like these." 

This virus, and the circumstances which surround it, have taken much from us and our neighbors throughout the world. Yet, it has given us opportunity to reconnect families and reset priorities. 

Now, as we stand at the threshold of Phase 1 of an economic recovery plan, we acknowledge the long road ahead. Credit is due to President Donald J. Trump, whose 3-phase plan offers reasoned approach coupled with adequate state-level decision making. Governor John Ben Edwards deserves credit for his informative, non-sensational, safety-oriented decision making and daily updates.

Now, the leadership test for both men moves from rescue to economic recovery.

As we ponder current expectations and the way forward, there are a number of factors to consider. Again, Alexander: “For the first time in our nation's history, we have quarantined and largely immobilized healthy people. The fact is that our citizens, in huge numbers, have lost their liberty—their religious freedom, their freedom of expressive activity – including freedom of association, freedom of movement and mobility, and freedom to peacefully assemble and petition their government for a redress of grievances.“ 

So, how does one balance the advice of the medical and scientific communities with the legal and constitutional conflicts which remain unresolved? How does one weigh personal economic interests against an invisible and often untraceable illness?

LFF advocates for an intact, functional worldview, which is why we called for prayer in the early stages of this crisis, and encouraged all to honor the spirit of the orders issued by officials in Louisiana.

Since the “shelter-in-place” restrictions were enacted, LFF has called for a respect for the role of government and encouraged temporary adherence to these restrictions in the interest of health and safety — as well as our testimony as good citizens. We have maintained that these restrictions on liberty should not become permanent and that, should a time come that we voice dissent with governmental policies, we would do so with clarity, reason, and respect. We believe that time for loosening restrictions may be approaching.

These are our guiding principles in coming to this conclusion:

  1. Personal rights do not come from the U.S. Constitution; the U.S. Constitution guarantees and acknowledges rights which flow from God;
  2. As much as possible, we are called to obey governmental authority, and we are called to give human government its proper due. However, we are never to give government unrestrained decision making power or our unconditional “consent”;
  3. Each person and family is ultimately responsible for evaluating their own risks and self-protection, and accepting the consequences of their actions, which may impact others;
  4. As ‘good neighbors’, we are to do our best to protect those around us using non-politicized, verifiable, and reliable information as to how that might be accomplished;
  5. Finally, we must utilize wise preventative measures, as quickly as possible, in order to resume pre-pandemic activity while keeping the health of the larger community in mind.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, likened the reopening of our country to a sunrise – gradual increases without dramatic change — in a phone call with faith leaders. 

The White House has released a 3-phase plan on moving forward. In a best-case scenario, this would lead to a limited resumption of communal activities, such as church, in the coming weeks and months. These guidelines suggest a “new normal” is imminent. In the context of sanitation practices, as Christians and churches, we would be wise to accept this “new normal” for a short time. But we should resist any long-term “new-normal” that seeks to make unreasonable or unconstitutional demands.

Given the regional impacts, we believe it is an appropriate time for Governor Edwards to consider opening Louisiana on a parish-by-parish basis, as we move our state toward economic recovery and Phase I of the President's Opening Up America Again Plan. A look at the number of positive tests and death rates by parish shows a vast difference in virus incidence ratesThis should be taken into account as each parish considers the path forward.Obviously, the more impacted regions will warrant a slower “sunrise.”

That does not mean churches or businesses should resume business as usual, but it does mean that economic healing from this crisis may begin regionally. This way of thinking is consistent with the President’s approach of allowing states, regionally, decision-making capacity based on national guidelines.

Public officials seeking to continue restrictions should be required to demonstrate that those restrictions are motivated by a compelling interest in the health and safety of the citizenry, that those policies are being carried out in the least restrictive means possible, and are proven to work. Additionally, leaders must agree that any restrictive policies will be applied equally across the board – without the government picking winners and losers in the resumption of our pre-pandemic life.

This is also an appropriate time for the Louisiana Legislature to quickly resume the legislative session and become more involved in the recovery process. We know that many Legislators have expressed frustration with the process and are eager to begin holding committee hearings on important bills. We urge them to start posting committee schedules and begin preparations to protect both legislators and the public as they conduct the people’s business.

Hindsight will be 20/20. But at this moment we have a responsibility to be both personally prudent and unflinchingly rigid in our defense of liberty and the God-given rights entrusted to us. We believe we can do both, respectfully and safely. 

Team LFF remains in service to you. If you believe that you, your family, your business, your church, or your ministry has been discriminated against by any government entity – local, state, or federal – we ask that you please let us know by responding to this email. 

If you are in a position to assist financially, LFF would be honored to receive your gift as we fight to preserve personal, speech, economic, and religious freedoms. We have remained open for the duration of this crisis because our generous supporters understand how fragile freedom is – and defending it is expensive. Would you step up, if you’re able, with a generous, tax-deductible gift to promote freedom in every corner of the Pelican State?

I, and my team, remain In His Service,


Gene Mills
President
Louisiana Family Forum

 

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