During an interview on MSNBC on Wednesday, Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) made a frightening statement about the 1st Amendment.
She was responding to a clip of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) declaring that she is treating protests differently from those that want to attend religious services. Bowser claimed that DC is doing a phased reopening and “First Amendment protests and large gatherings are not the same.”
McConnell said, “Here in the District of Columbia, the mayor celebrates massive street protests. She actually joins them herself. But on her command, churches and houses of worship remain shut. … Apparently, while protests are now permissible, prayer is still too dangerous.”
Bowser said, “I think the senator is very familiar with the White House’s reopening plan. It’s a phased reopening plan. It follows data and science. The president was there when it was presented by Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci. And we are following a phased reopening plan in Washington, D.C., and we are in phase one. We’re reopening our city safely and according to the science. Now, First Amendment protests and large gatherings are not the same. And that’s why we don’t see our cities opened up to all of the massive events. Now, in the United States of America, people can protest.”
Bowser may want to be careful Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr calling for a civil rights investigation into violations of the First Amendment by state officials who have imposed strict caps on religious speech gatherings while allowing thousands to protests.
“As our Constitution allows, Americans have the right to peaceably protest. Millions of people are rightly angry about the death of George Floyd, and they should be able to protest peacefully. At the same time, state officials must not use their support for this protest to infringe the free exercise and free speech rights of religious Americans. Yet that is happening across the nation. The First Amendment prohibits state officials from treating religious individuals and groups worse than others. Two weeks ago, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court denied relief to a California church. The decision tilted in favor of the state, the Chief Justice wrote, because of uncertainty about whether the church was being treated worse than comparable secular organizations.”
You can read the full letter here.