Challenging COVID Crackdowns In More States – With John Whitehead: What does it take to shift a culture? How much influence could one pastor really have? Tune in to hear how education precedes action, and why we should stand for our rights now!
Air Date: 06/03/2020
Guest: John Whitehead
On-air Personalities: David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton
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Transcription note: Â As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast. Transcription will be released shortly. However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers. Additionally, names may be misspelled or we might use an asterisk to indicate a missing word because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times. We apologize in advance.
Faith and the Culture
Welcome to the intersection of faith and the culture. It’s WallBuilders Live and we’re talking about today’s hottest topics on policy and faith and the culture. We always do that from a biblical, historical and constitutional perspective. We’re here with David Barton, America’s premier historian and our founder at WallBuilders. Tim Barton is with us, he’s a national speaker and pastor and president of WallBuilders. My name is Rick Green, I’m a former Texas legislator and America’s Constitution coach.
Check us out at wallbuilderslive.com, that’s where you can get archives of the program and all kinds of other great information. And then also at wallbuilders.com, our main website where there is a wealth of knowledge and tools for you and your family to become better citizens and help preserve America’s constitutional republic.
We are in extremely difficult times, my friends. This is a time that we need a biblical, historical and constitutional perspective more than ever. I want to urge you and encourage you to get your friends and family to begin studying the Constitution and studying the Bible, studying a biblical worldview of what government should look like, what our relationship should look like, all of those things.
We need truth right now, not just emotion, not hyperbole, not exaggerations, we need absolute truth. And that’s really why we’re in the mess we’re in, because we ran away from moral absolutes, we forgot the very, you know, essence of our Declaration of Independence, we hold these truths, truths to be self-evident, that there is a right and wrong, friends. And that right and wrong applies, regardless of the color of your skin, regardless of your profession, that there is a right and wrong, that there are truths. And that’s where we even get the idea of inalienable rights like life liberty in the pursuit of happiness.
Well, we cannot defend those things if we don’t know our Constitution, if we don’t know where those rights come from and how to use the Constitution to properly protect them. Whether it’s your First Amendment rights that have been violated in the COVID crackdowns, Fourth Amendment rights violated when there is police brutality even though it is rare compared to the number of police interactions that actually take place throughout the year, but it does happen, because there’s bad actors in every field and every profession, so you’ve got to know the Constitution.
Now, later in the program, our interview is going to be the John Whitehead. We’re going to be specifically talking about the COVID crackdowns, we actually did this interview a week or so ago, before the riots and everything that’s happened. So, I hope it doesn’t appear in or you know, seem at all insensitive to you that it’s not specifically on the Fourth Amendment violations for George Floyd or a biblical perspective on responding to the riots. But we want to not lose sight of the other constitutional violations that are happening as well. So, we’re going to air that interview today. Let’s get some content from David and Tim right now on the interview with John Whitehead.
Alright, David. Tim, later in the program, John Whitehead, back with us from the Rutherford Institute, one of the organizations on the frontlines right now and all these COVID crackdowns trying to prevent States from and local entities from infringing on constitutional rights and we’ve seen a ton of lawsuits across the country. Of course, Wisconsin, the, you know, Supreme Court there overturned the governor’s orders.
We saw that happen in Oregon with a district court overturning the governor’s order. But then the Supreme Court reversed that or at least put a stay on it. Kentucky has had their orders overturned in federal court. So, a lot of victories out there for the Constitution. And later, John will be with us to talk about two new ones, so one in New York, one in Delaware.
So, thankfully, you know, there’s enough of these good law firms out there and these experienced attorneys dealing with these issues that are that are pushing back. And hopefully, we’ll be able to get rid of a lot of these unconstitutional actions and prevent it from happening in the future.
Yeah, the suits we’ve seen so far mainly have centered around First Amendment religious expression rights. And so that started really three to four weeks ago with some churches with several legal actions going on and that’s a lot further down the road. Now, we’re starting to see businesses jump on as well, that there is an inalienable right to make a living for myself and my family and you’re impeding me from doing that. So, just like I have the right to express my faith, there’s also the right to earn a living for my family.
Businesses Are Stepping Out
So, we’re seeing those lawsuits kind of come up now. We’re seeing businesses step into that. We’re seeing other areas kind of come online in these lawsuits. But it’s interesting that the ones that have dealt with religion so far, so many of those have been one, that even with governors who really don’t like religion, they made it really clear in their orders, you’re not an essential business and there’s four categories that coming back online in the State and you’re in category number 4, not category 3 or 2 or 1, everything is more important than you are. I mean, we’ve seen that literally manifested, this is not just suggested. This is what the governors have said or done themselves.
And so many governors have lost on this, that it’s interesting to me to see now that in California, when you had a couple thousand churches, say, hey, we’re going to do this. I mean, we’ve been good neighbors for the last two months, but we’re going back to our constitutional rights and we’ve cooperated with you, but we’re going to do this. It’s interesting that governor Newsom back down. He said, okay, okay, you can have drive-in services. And, you know, he started giving us some grounds in area. And we’ve seen that with other States as well. Washington, they follow suit. And the governor said, okay, okay, okay, I’ll back down some now. They’re not backing up all the way, but they are backing down some, at least acknowledging that they may have gone too far.
Well, it’s important to note too, that part of the reason churches were going to be good neighbors was based on the information they were getting at the time, was based off the models, that there could be millions of people that die and of course, churches, hopefully and presumably filled with Christians, who hopefully and presumably followed Jesus and read the Bible, well, we’re supposed to treat other people the way we’re going to be treated. We’re supposed to love our neighbors ourselves; look not only to our own interests, but to the interest of others.
There’s a whole lot that’s supposed to guide us, which deals with loving, caring and considering other people and their interest. So, it would totally make sense based on the information, these churches would go, you know what, it’s probably good for us to take pause, take a timeout, let people stay home, stop the spread of this crazy thing that’s going to kill millions of people. We don’t want to overwhelm the healthcare system. Based on the information, it made sense that they would want to be good neighbors.
The Information is Changing
And that information, Tim, also, we didn’t know how it spread, was it going to be, you know, bad for us to get together and worship? Now, they’re telling us it’s not on surfaces as much and blah, blah, blah. Yeah, we need to take our minds back to two months ago and why churches were willing to say, okay, we won’t meet for a little while. It was all the unknowns.
Well, and that’s exactly right. And now that information is changing, now that we realized the models were incredibly flawed, now we realized, instead of it being 3% of Americans potentially even population that could die, now it’s going to be, you know, possibly 0.3 possibly of the population that’s affected that it could bring death toll, which is still I mean, obviously, it’s bad, it’s devastating, this is not a good situation. But the information has changed and instead of governors going, hey, we have new information, therefore the standards of lockdown, the restrictions we wanted there to be, those are going to change.
Governors in many States have said, we’re going to be more restrictive. We’re not lifting restrictions. We’re not going to change our behavior in our things. And this is where now churches are going, no, wait a second. We were willing to stop meeting for a couple weeks based on this information of how devastating this would be. But now the information is that this is not nearly as devastating as we thought, we’re ready to reassemble. We want to speak hope and encouragement back into people. We want to help uplift the community. And this is where it’s crazy that governors were telling them no.
And dad, as you mentioned that there are some lawsuits out there where governors are now starting to back down based on these lawsuits. But it’s crazy that these incredibly restrictive decisions and I guess, positions from these governors and mayors are still being promoted and touted as the best thing for the community.
Yeah. And while some of these governors are backing up, I’d point out that they need to back off, not just back up. So, trying to make a little bit of compromise and okay, well, let’s have drive-in services, but you still can’t meet in person. That’s not sufficient. That’s not enough. And one of the guys who has always been super strong on the Constitution and what it actually says and holding elected officials accountable, that’s been John Whitehead. And so, Rick as you started mentioning John Whitehead with the Rutherford Institute, has got these cases going on in New York with Governor Cuomo and also, he’s got one popping up in Delaware as well.
And it’s interesting that even Governor Cuomo is seeing this kind of lawsuit come at him and he’s wanting to make some adjustments. But you know, it’s going to be like the other ‘Blue Governors’. He’s going to give a little ground, but not be willing to give everything, but John is got the latest update on where they are with this. This is going to be a really interesting case.
Staying with us, folks, John Whitehead when we return a WallBuilders Live.
Hey friends, this Rick Green from WallBuilders Live and I have had so many requests about, what in the world could we be studying at home right now you know I got the kids at home, they’re normally in school? Or if you homeschool, you’re looking for additional material. One-Room Schoolhouse. It is a great new series WallBuilders is putting out where you literally get a tour of the WallBuilders library as Tim Barton and Jonathan Ritchie bring history to life. There’s a couple of resources on this.
You go to YouTube and search for WallBuilders and look for a One-Room Schoolhouse. You can go to our Facebook page and get it right there on Facebook as we do it live each Monday and sometimes additional days from there. And then you can also just go to wallbuilders.com, scroll down to the bottom and we’ll be posting the videos as they come out.
This is such a great way to learn and a great way for you to share with others. Gather the family around, watch the One-Room Schoolhouse and learn some great history. It’ll be vitally important to restoring our nation and bringing back these principles that made America great in the first place. Check it out email@example.com.
John Whitehead from Rutherford Institute is back with us. Always good to have you, sir. Thanks for your time today.
Thank you, sir for having me on.
Lots of Spinning Plates
Well, this is a busy, busy time for you. You’re always out there defending the Constitution and defending people and their constitutional rights. But man, in this COVID crackdown environment we’re in, I can imagine you’ve got a lot of, should I say legal plates spinning right now?
Oh, yeah. One the most recent is a New York Church of just 40 people in the congregation. Several weeks ago, held a drive-in service where the pastor, 41 cars and 18 people were in the cars, they stayed in the cars. He actually used an FM transmitter to talk to them. He had a mask on, unbelievable or not talking…
…standing out in the parking lot away from them. The police arrived later and told him that he would face a $1,000 fine for allowing such a service to convene. We sent a strong letter to the city police in the city and told them to back off, it was a First Amendment issue by the way, and he was doing everything that was required, especially when you have liquor stores, big box stores in New York operating, I mean, this is ridiculous.
So, now Governor Cuomo has announced that he’s going to allow drive-in services after our lawsuit.
Two Thumbs Up
So, two thumbs up for that one. But what he shows you is I like fighting preachers. This preacher here, pastor Hyman, he’s nice, he’s orderly, he’s straightforward, but he was willing to stand up and fight. And what I’ve told people who had studied the American Revolution, many of the ministers during the American Revolution were called the Black Regiment. They got in there, they fought back. The British in many times when they raided town would burn the churches first, because that’s where the Patriots met.
But what we’re seeing here and I think it’s a good thing is, it’s time for people to stand up for our Constitution. If you don’t stand up for it, if this pastor here hadn’t stood up for, drive-in services would still be illegal in the state of New York. So…
I think about how many people in New York will benefit, how many other churches will benefit, because he stood up, because you represented him. Now, there’s tons of other people in that state that are going to be able to exercise their First Amendment right, but you got to have that person with backbone willing to stand up.
One person opens the door and I keep telling people that and he opened the door here and it’s great. And now the churches that were a little timid about doing this, they’re do it. And he did it the right way by the way. You can go to our website and see an interview he did with a local affiliate television station where he presents his case.
And so, it’s well done, but it shows you that, you know, if we’re going to survive this so called COVID-19 crisis with our freedoms, stand up. And don’t forget and I tell people, the Declaration of Independence says very clearly, our rights come from the Creator, they do not come from government. We have an inalienable right, they cannot be taken away, only if we give them away.
Unfortunately, in former regimes and foreign countries that I document my books, also at our website Rutherford.org, there are many good articles, everyone can read and get educated. Once you start giving in too much, it becomes to a point where the government assumes that they can do anything they want to do and they will do that.
That’s right. And in fact, I want to go one step further and go into Rutherford. It’s Rutherford.org, right? That’s…
In addition to reading the articles and following the cases, I’m going to ask people to donate because, you know, you provide these services for folks all over the country. It’s a donor supported thing and we need, I call you’re legal beagles. Man, we need you warriors on the front lines of this from a legal perspective. So please, folks, go there, get the book, donate, it help John do what he’s doing with Rutherford Institute.
I raised me to fight the cases, yeah, we don’t charge our clients. Because most people can’t afford lawyers that [inaudible 13:32].
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. John, let me ask you this on the legal arguments that are being discussed, because I’m having a hard time even envisioning how there’s a compelling interest for the government. If people are in their cars, the pastor is got a mask on. I mean, how does the State even make an argument for saying that they’ve got an interest in preventing that from happening or that they’re being you know, what is narrowly tailored, least restrictive in these orders? I can’t see how they win that case. I mean…
A First Amendment Case
They weren’t going to win the case, that’s why they backed off now. They [inaudible 14:04] once one person, they’ll go back. One person took a stand and said, not going to do it. And they did it and called us when the police approached him and we told the police we’ll sue you, we’ll file a lawsuit.
We’re going forward with this thing. It’s a First Amendment case. Remember, most people don’t know what the First Amendment means anymore. I talk to people all across the country. [inaudible 14:24], what’s in the First Amendment? You have the freedom to worship, you have freedom of religion, you have freedom… and you have the freedom to associate, to gather together. And you can only stop [inaudible 14:34] if you have a compelling State interest. But here, they didn’t have a compelling State interest because the fellow was doing it, but it was like a cell phone meeting.
Is the virus going double on your cell phone? Are you still alive? No. So it was ridiculous. But again, people were sitting by and taking it. So, this one man stood up and that’s the key.
Key Constitutional Provisions
You know, taking it outside of the churches a little bit in terms of the businesses, you know, I kind of thought, back in March, okay, maybe you could argue a compelling interest if you’re looking at Italy and you’re saying we’re trying to stop that from happening here, even though we’ve never done total crackdowns, like we’ve done this time in terms of healthy people being quarantined or not letting people go to work. We’ve shut down restaurants and other things in the past with Spanish flu, but nothing like this total shut down. And so, I’m trying to think through the compelling interest now, now that we’re not looking at a small pox 30% fatality rate or an Ebola 50%, now that the number really is 1% or less, do you think the compelling interest argument is going to hold up for them to continue to not let businesses open either?
No. And I think, again, if as long as people do it responsibly, and if the government interferes with them, for example, they keep their so called social distancing, whatever they go, the rules that are and the reasonable rules by the way, with this pass of the rule is totally unreasonable. Yeah, but here’s the key.
We can’t let them go too much further, because and again, as I write my commentaries, if you let them go, they’ll only go as far as you let them go. Most of the time government officials, they don’t really respect people’s rights generally. I’ve been doing this for over 40 years and I very seldom find government officials who say, gee, I really want to uphold the First Amendment or Fourth Amendment or any of these key constitutional provisions. But whose responsibility is it to hold these rights? We the people, that’s how the Constitution starts folks.
Yes. Oh, that’s so good. Are you as encouraged as I am that so many people are thinking about the Constitution for the first time in their lives maybe and talking about federalism and talking about rights? I mean, I see some silver lining here just from the standpoint of we have an opportunity, guys like you and me that love this stuff, to get our friends and family and neighbors to start thinking about it?
The Bill of Rights
Yeah, I think this is a chance and people are starting to get an idea that hey, maybe [inaudible 16:45], I’ve just been sitting around watching TV or what am I’m doing, not paying attention to what’s going on. That’s another thing. I tell people to quit sitting and watching all the time. Take it. We got a Bill of Rights [inaudible 16:57] you can get, the Bill of Rights is only 462 words, folks, it takes you five minutes to read if you’re a slow reader. Teach your kids at home because in the public schools, by the way, they’re not teaching it anymore, very clearly. Teach your kids it, right. Education precedes action. I’m telling, get active in your local government and you can stop this stuff. With your local governments under control, following the Constitution, and folks, I got to say, the Constitution, you are the government. It’s not them that they represent us, we’re the government. So, quit being lazy, get active.
I like that. You said education precedes action. So, we’ve got study, we got to know our rights. John, man, I can’t thank you enough for what you do. As I said, you’re on the frontlines, the things you’re doing, you’ve got a suit in Delaware now as well. I know your plate is full. But thank you for being willing to do so. Thank you for stepping out there. Rutherford.org is the website. We’re asking people to go and help you there.
Get on your email list, stay up to date with what’s happening, make the donations. Folks that need help can email you there and see if it’s a case you might be interested in. But man, these are precarious times. Without guys like you, I would really, I mean I fear for the future of our country. But as long as we got guys like you fighting, as long as the citizens stand up and become we, the people the way they should, I think we can turn this thing around.
I think so. If we wake up, get on the lines and fight back. That’s the key.
That’s right. John Whitehead, appreciate you, brother. Rutherford.org is the website. Go there right now, people, rutherford.org. John, thanks for your time today.
Thank you, sir.
Thanks to John Whitehead for joining us today and also for taking on these cases in New York and Delaware. And he has cases all across the country as well. But it’s just so important to have these organizations out there. You know, David, Tim, just the other day, I went on and I looked at the five or six different organizations that we work with on these things. And I said, you know what, I can’t give a lot, but I’m going to just do a small donation to each of these groups, because they are doing incredible work right now. And every one of them we’ve talked to are working around the clock, I mean, they’ve never had so many cases at one time.
Yeah, working around the clock is right. We were actually contacted by one of the groups over the weekend saying, hey, this has got to be into the Judge on Sunday afternoon. Can you get us this information? We’re going oh my gosh, who’s meeting on Sunday afternoon? Well, that’s the backup this going with this stuff.
So, there was a lot going on and there should be, because there’s been a lot of constitutional violations or what we as originalist would consider to be constitutional violation. But I love John’s whole attitude here. I mean, he starts off his interview saying, I really like fighting preachers. You know, he’s nice, he’s orderly, but he’s one who’s going to fight. I thought, there’s a constitutional retarded, that’s got to be a dream for him.
Black Robe Regiment
And to clarify, he doesn’t like actually fighting the preachers themselves. He likes preachers who will stand up and fight. And, right, the allusion to the Black Robe Regiment and recognizing that historically in America, pastors were often the ones leading the fight, engaging in the battle. We’ve been working on a new book that God Willing is going to be coming out in just a couple weeks, called the American Story.
And in this, we highlight through the history of America and we really look at the first several hundred early years from kind of the discovery time where Columbus lands and the Caribbean islands, coming forward basically to Abraham Lincoln. But we identify how often in America that Christians specifically, oftentimes pastors were the ones who were helping change culture and lead forward and fight against the problems and the evils that were happening in culture and helping when the battles that need to be won.
It’s so often, was Christian leaders and pastors doing this? And as John pointed out, it’s so awesome to have a pastor stand up and Rick, you even pointed this out in the interview. That oftentimes, for a culture to shift, it just takes leadership. And so many times people are waiting for that one pastor, for that one leader to stand up and emboldened, it encourages other people to stand up and go, hey, I can make a difference, I can do something.
And so, the fact that we are able to win so many of these lawsuits in these states is because there are pastors and there’s Christian leaders who are willing to stand up and say, yeah, I’m not going to let them get away with this. We recognize that we have a constitutional right to do some of these things. We’re willing to fight this fight so we can win this, not just for us, but also for those in our community and ultimately the country. It is really great to see some of these pastors willing to stand up.
One Guy Stood Up
Well, Rick, even as you guys were talking, I mean, you pointed out, here’s one guy who stood up. And just because he stood up, the governor back down and change his order. And I was reminded of what you got in Romans 5:19, where it says, “By the obedience of one, many were made righteous.” I mean, it also says, “By the disobedience of one, many lost the righteousness.” But by the obedience of one, here’s one pastor and how many tens of thousands of pastors are there in New York because this one pastor stood up and filed a suit, the governor back down. Now, you know, again, it’s not enough to back down, he’s going to have to back off. So, he’s trying to give an accommodation and still come out being the winner on this and he just can’t be the winner when he’s wrong all the way.
But I thought that was such a significant thing that you did have an individual who was willing to stand up and that individual was a pastor. And look what he’s done for millions of Christians in New York and for really tens of thousands of pastors in New York, it really is good. And as you guys talked about, you know, people were sitting by and saying, this is not good, but nobody was doing anything about it until he stood up. And man, what a difference it’s already made. Even though this thing is not finished yet, just making and filing that lawsuit has already started bringing some victory.
And you know, tied with that, John said, look, government will only go as far as you let them go. I thought, that’s a great point. We’re now starting to see people across the nation stand up and say, we’re not going to let you go any further. You’ve gone as far as we’re going to let you go. We shouldn’t let you go this far, but you’re not going to go further. And that’s when it starts changing.
And guys, this is something we’ve talked about on the program in recent weeks, is this is one of the areas we might see a very positive constitutional reset, where people are waking up. Rick, pointed out, one of the good things that they could be the outcome of so much of this nonsense is that people are now starting to be awakened and more aware of what the Constitution says, and what are our constitutional rights and recognizing that there is not a ruling class in America, that the elected officials, they used to be called public servants. Their job was to work for us. And when you cease to represent the wishes and desires of the elected body, then you’re no longer the public servant we want, because you’re not serving the needs of the people that elected you.
Education is KEY
And I think there’ll be several things that will potentially change. Again, we’ve talked about the some in previous programs. But I think one of the positive resets is not only that people are going to be more aware of the Constitution, that they’re more aware of the constitutional rights and they’re be some great conversations that people will have, you know, around the water cooler, things that now we’re just talking about some different things. I think it’s also going to have an impact on potential local elections.
When you look at local elections, the voter turnout out is far below 10% in most local elections. And so, what you see is that the dedicated loyal people are the ones who are choosing elected officials. And if you are in a town that leans liberal, what that means is the dedicated liberals are choosing one of their dedicated liberals to be the leader of the town, which is why you get such terrible policies, for example, Chicago, terrible policies, but it’s a reflection of the people who got out and voted and not to say that Chicago is only 10% liberal. No, they’re far more liberal than that. But when only 10% or actually many times, far less of the population…
It’s usually 4-6% of most local elections. Most city elections, mayors are chosen with 4-6% turnout.
So, that’s something where people, I think, now are much more aware of the fact they want to have better leaders in place. So, when something crazy happens, they’re going to have someone who’s not going to trample on their rights, who’s not going to take away their freedoms. And I think guys, one of the resets we could see is a better involvement of local elections.
Challenging COVID Crackdowns In More States – With John Whitehead
And by the way, John had a great phrase, I’m going to rob his phrase, I’ll give him credit for it, Rick, like you do first two or three times and it’ll be mine. But I’ll tell you, there’s only 462 words in the Bill of Rights, it only takes five minutes to read it if you’re a slow reader. I thought, that’s great. That’s right.
But you know, it’s so easy, but only 1 out of 1,000 even knows that freedom of religion is one of the five rights protecting the First Amendment. Everybody can know that in less than five minutes. And so that’s another thing that will affect local elections, is go back and read that little five minute document and then hold that up to your county officials, to your city officials and then vote accordingly, it’ll make a huge reset in the nation.
Yeah, I think guys, if civic ignorance in many ways, not knowing our history, not knowing the Constitution got us into this mess, then civic literacy can not only get us out of it, it can help prevent it in the future. And that applies both to the COVID crackdowns, to the Fourth Amendment violations, it applies to peaceful protest, how to properly petition our government for redress of grievances and it applies to knowing truth about who we are as Americans and what we really stand for and what this nation is all about.
Part of the reason we have such tension right now is because of the Leftist ideology that has been poisoning our culture for so long and turning us against each other. So, we need that biblical, historical and constitutional perspective more than ever. You’ll get more of it right here on WallBuilders Live. You can find more of it right now on our website, wallbuilderslive.com. But make sure you listen every day and you share with your friends and family. Let’s infuse some knowledge and some truth into the culture and we can save our constitutional republic.
Thanks for listening to WallBuilders Live.