For nearly three months, Americans across the country have been under lockdown orders to fight the coronavirus pandemic. Federal, state, and local officials have emphasized a need to continue exercising caution in the reopening process, maintaining that we are not yet out of the woods.

But in all the calls for caution, to stay inside, to be responsible, government officials have changed their tune when it comes to the recent protests. Rest assured, we have receipts.

This is not about the protests themselves. The right to peacefully assemble is enshrined in our constitution; protestors have every right to gather, and their reason for assembling is both valid and necessary.

This is about the leaders. Leaders who insisted that our safety depends on masks, social distancing, and small gatherings (or none at all), yet themselves march among crowds where masks are not worn by all, distancing is rarely an option, and gatherings far exceed the limitations.

I think of my home state of New Jersey in particular. Though orders were recently eased, as noted in this thread of tweets, the hypocrisy remains in actions taken these last few days and weeks. By his own string of executive orders, Governor Murphy required that gatherings remain capped at 10 people indoors, 25 people outdoors. Small businesses and houses of worship were not allowed to open unless for curbside service or drive-in events, respectively; owners of businesses, hopeful customers, and faith leaders have been held to this standard, some cited or even arrested for breaking the Governor’s orders. 

I could whip out tweets from Governor Murphy and other government leaders right now, but we’re saving those for later.

For now, we’ll bring out pictures.

Governor Murphy defied his own executive order this weekend by gathering in crowds of more than 25 individuals outdoors at a protest in Hillside, New Jersey. He posted a picture of himself maybe six inches from the person beside him; certainly not six feet. 

Again, this is not about the protests, of which I, and many like me, stand in support. But Governor Murphy has had faith leaders arrested and has decimated New Jersey small businesses to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and then himself participated in events which shirk his own rules and contribute to the spread.

Governor Murphy and his fellow elected officials have cried for a response to the virus that is determined by science and concern for public health. Here are a few examples, just from Governor Murphy:

On April 25, he tweeted:

“Our #COVID19 response has been guided by the simple truth that public health creates economic health. The road back will be driven by data, science, and common sense.”

The sentiments continued in a tweet on May 20 with words:

“My big fear is that people will die needlessly because politicians are rushing a reopening contrary to public health guidance and data.”

One more, because this May 6 tweet seems a bit prophetic:

“We’re guided by science. Not politics.

We’re guided by data. Not protests.

We’re guided by public health. Not emotion.

That’s how we meet this moment. That’s how we save lives.”

But Governor Murphy and many officeholders around the country discarded the science which they bandied about for three months to engage in activities they deem acceptable. All other events and activities–funerals, religious gatherings, business openings, and more–were subject to the prevailing science and executive orders.

Because why? Because the virus understands that certain gatherings are off-limits to spread infection?

What a dangerous implication. And even more than implying such a sentiment, Governor Murphy has said as much: “it’s one thing to protest what day nail salons are opening and it’s another to come out and peaceful[ly] protest about somebody who was murdered right before our eyes.”

To say the science applies only to the types of gatherings the leaders deem expedient or permissible is laughable and, even more, it’s gaslighting. Beyond that, it is a hard slap in the face to many who have lived under these rules and sacrificed proper funerals and their livelihoods.

But don’t worry. If you have been to a protest, just get tested. That’s the solution presented by both Governors Cuomo (NY) and Murphy. Keep protesting because this gathering is acceptable, but just make sure you get tested after the fact.

Elected officials: it does not work like that. If you want to allow crowds of hundreds–even thousands–then all crowds of hundreds and thousands are permissible. If the solution to mass gatherings is more testing, by your own words, then reopening is not only sensible, it’s illogical to say otherwise because such testing capacity now exists.

Now, as I am writing this, the Governor eased his limits. Outdoor religious gatherings as well as protests are now allowed under his executive order. But the weeks of gaslighting and confusion are not erased. The right to protest is just as much part of our constitution as the right to religious freedom. Granting to us certain rights and withholding others based on subjective standards was an objective violation of our rights.

I’m grateful that the outcry was great enough that elected officials are now conforming to one standard of science. But as the election for New Jersey governor draws nearer in 2021, I certainly won’t forget the hypocrisy of my elected official.

Liana I.
FFL Cabinet
Liana is a follower of Christ and current communications student at Fairleigh Dickinson University. She enjoys writing, reading, and serving others.

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