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Stay-at-home enforcement an affront to freedom?

This COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on us all.

No one has suffered more, however, than the people who contracted the virus and suffered through it to survive, or worse yet, the people who died from the disease.

Nonetheless, the nation’s efforts to curtail the spread of the disease have been tough on all of us freedom-loving Americans.

We do not like to be limited in our comings and goings. We like to gather in groups to eat in groups, go to shows, bars and parties in groups.

We also like to gather in groups to worship.

Our right to gather in such groups for activities is included, along with many other basic rights of Americans, in the first amendment: “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.”

There it is, spelled out in our Constitution giving us those basic rights. Yet under the stay-at-home orders from local, state and federal governments, we have been told not to gather in groups of more than 10.

For the most part, people understand why those orders are in place and have chosen to abide by them to help suppress the spread of COVID-19, which is a new strain of the coronavirus.

Since the virus is new, nobody has any immunity to the virus and it can spread person-to-person easily and is particularly hard on the most vulnerable people among us.

Most people understand that and see the value in giving up some of their freedoms to gather for the common good during this time.

Some people, however, see the orders as unconstitutional and an affront to their basic American freedoms. They have proceeded to hold regular church services, or to keep going to bars or restaurants or to go to the beach in large spring-break crowds.

Gov. Tate Reeves recently said he does not believe his shelter-in-place order could be enforced against church gatherings of more than 10 people but implored people not to hold such gatherings until the virus has been curtailed and most churches have complied even without the threat of punishment of law.

One church in Greenville decided to hold a drive-in service in which members drove to the parking lot and sat in their cars with the windows rolled up attend the service, which sounds like it would be in line with prohibitions against in-person gatherings.

Police did not agree and reportedly ticketed the church members while they were sitting in their cars.

I am all for the sheltering-in-place and for social distancing and taking necessary steps to curtail the spread of the new coronavirus, but the actions of Greenville police seem to be a step too far and seems to confirm the fears of so many people who have been saying the shelter-in-place orders are an affront to their freedoms.

People sitting in cars with windows rolled up seems a safe compromise to prohibitions against gathering for in-person church services.

Fortunately the mayor of Greenville backed off of the $500 tickets issued to the church members.

Thanks goodness, anything less would have only served to confirmed the fears people had in association with the stay-at-home orders.

Scott Hawkins is editor of The Natchez Democrat. Reach him at 601-445-3540 or scott.hawkins@natchezdemocrat.com.