Governor Bullock’s shelter-in-place directive mirrors orders given in highly urban and densely populated states, with one exception. Whereas most similar orders throughout the United States leave exemptions for clergy and religious services, Bullock’s order does not. But the services Bullock’s order does exempt have some questioning his priorities.
In Montana, pastors and priests can’t visit the dying at home without running afoul of Governor Bullock’s shelter-in-place order, but marijuana is still being delivered. Although many governors throughout the country explicitly exempted clergy and religion-oriented service providers from shelter-in-place orders, Governor Bullock did not.
Richland County Civil Attorney, Tom Halvorson, provided a crib notes version of Bullock’s order at his website, Tom Halvorson.
Halvorson wrote, “The order fails to recognize as necessary such work as priests and pastors visiting the sick or dying for Confession, Absolution, Extreme Unction, Last Rites, or Sacrament of the Altar. Along those lines, the order no doubt has other blind spots that would come to light with further reflection and experience.”
Indeed, Halvorson is correct. Bullock’s executive order (available here) makes specific provisions to allow marijuana dispensaries and reproductive health centers (including abortion clinics, which help neither reproduction nor health) to stay open.
No mention is made for clergy traveling to conduct religious rites or pastoral visitation. In fact, churches and other humanitarian non-profits are placed in the same category as for-profit businesses under Bullock’s order (see below).
In addition to not exempting clergy, churches in the state are ordered closed unless they can ensure more than six square feet between individuals is maintained, something next to impossible for houses of worship (see below).
The only exemption provided for religious organizations is if they’re providing food, shelter, or social services. There is no exemption for worship or religious observance as guaranteed in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution (see below).
As churches are closed tomorrow throughout Montana, marijuana dispensaries are still making home deliveries, permissible under the governor’s order. Dispensaries in Missoula such as the Dancing Goat Gardens, Big Sky Herbals and Edibles, and Euphoria Wellness are all continuing their operating services. Additionally, Planned Parenthood is still maintaining hours, using much-needed medical supplies that could be spent saving lives instead of taking them.