Dear Members of the Interfaith Leaders of Greater Lafayette,
In light of Governor Holcomb’s recently announced decision to allow houses of worship to hold worship services starting Friday without limitation, we offer the following Response:
The Mission Statement for ILGL reminds us that we are a coalition of leaders of religious institutions and organizations in greater Lafayette dedicated to dialogue, service, hope, and a shared vision for our local community. During these uncertain times, we all must wrestle with what our shared vision must be in order to keep members of our communities safe and healthy.
The situation in our state of Indiana is a dire one, with COVID-19 cases rising and the numbers of infected truly unknown due to lack of testing. We also know from experts, as well as experience from past American pandemics, that COVID-19 will come and go in waves, and that the future is, indeed, unknown.
Therefore, in response to the Governor’s decision, we give the following response:
While we appreciate the Governor’s appropriation of religious communities as “the most responsible” groups to fully open, we recognize that this level of responsibility does not and should not rest on the shoulders of individual faith leaders. In our continued quest to preserve and protect the lives of our flocks, we rely upon our safety networks such as our governing bodies, hierarchies, boards of directors, and most importantly, the secular scientific evaluations of these kinds of risks. These are matters of life and death, and no one faith leader should be fully responsible to make these difficult decisions alone.
It is for these reasons that we strongly encourage all houses of worship, all congregations, of every size, their leaders and members, to refrain from in-person religious gatherings, including worship, for the foreseeable future. We strongly encourage all our faith communities to begin or continue virtual worship, education, and pastoral care opportunities in place of gathering in person.
Additionally, we wish to respond to the Governor’s statement in hoping faith communities will serve as a “test or control group” under his reopening plan. As faith leaders who spend our days caring for our flock, members of the human race who are flesh and blood, we do not see any reason to risk the lives of our members in order to test the outcome of gathering together. While we appreciate placebo and control groups in experiments, possibly exposing our vulnerable members to a deadly virus is not a test in which we, as those who honor the value of human life, wish to participate, for it breaks the principle of treating others as we would have others treat us.
It is our sincere hope that faith leaders and lay leaders within our community will put the safety and health of their congregants first, and continue to wait patiently for the day in which we can all safely embrace one another in the same holy spaces.
In almost every religion, dating from ancient Egypt to modern times and spanning the globe across cultures, there is some form of what is often called the “golden rule.” This is also present in secular philosophy and ethics across cultures and history. It is articulated in the 1993 statement by the Parliament of the World’s Religions entitled “Declaration Toward a Global Ethic” which states, “We must treat others as we wish others to treat us.” We believe this is a universal principle that can extend to all faith communities.
We believe that we are all responsible for one another and all have responsibility to keep each other safe just as we would want others to keep us safe. To that end, we implore faith communities to follow the advice of health care professionals about when to safely gather together as people of faith.
The Interfaith Leaders of Greater Lafayette