21.8 F
West Bend
Home Hartford Guest Editorial | By Pastor Bryan McDowell

Guest Editorial | By Pastor Bryan McDowell


August 16, 2020 – Hartford, WI – On behalf of places of worship across our state, I am asking Gov. Tony Evers to affirm religious liberty in Wisconsin, and exclude religious organizations from the face mask mandate.

While I feel it is important to honor an individual’s personal decision regarding wearing a face mask, I do not feel this should be a government mandate.

While I am sure many have raised concerns about the constitutionality of the face mask order, there can be no doubt that any government mandate placed on a house of worship is prohibited by the Constitution. The face mask mandate marks the second time during the course of this pandemic Wisconsin churches have faced such an overreach.

The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The face mask mandate prohibits the free exercise of religion in the following ways:

  • Places major limitations on how vocalists conduct worship.
  • Limits meaningful connection between faith leaders and parishioners during times of prayer.
  • Limits the assembly’s ability to worship freely and openly.

Other states that have implemented a face mask mandate have recognized the protections that religious organizations have under the Constitution and have clarified that places of worship are exempt. The governor should follow this model and affirm freedom of religion in Wisconsin.

Bryan McDowell, Hartford, lead pastor, Family Church


Disclaimer: Opinions and letters published in https://www.washingtoncountyinsider.com are not necessarily the views of the Editor, or Publisher. The https://www.washingtoncountyinsider.com reserves the right to edit or omit copy, in accordance with newspaper policies. Letters to the Editor must be attributed with a name, address and contact phone number – names and town of origin will be printed, or may be withheld at the Editor’s discretion. During the course of any election campaign, letters to the editor dealing with election issues or similar material must contain the author’s name and street address (not PO Box) for publication.

Please also note:


WCI COMMENTING RULES OF ETIQUETTE:While open and honest debate is encouraged here, Washington County Insider asks that you comply with the following rules for posting. Those who do not comply will have their posts removed and may result in being banned from commenting.

Washington County Insider will not publish comments that:

  • Are considered likely to provoke, attack or offend others. This is known as “trolling.” Trollers know when they are trolling, and so do we. *See definition of “troll” below. If you notice a few consistent blog trolls disappear, you’ll know why.
  • Are sexually explicit, abusive or otherwise objectionable.
  • Contains inappropriate or vulgar language that is likely to offend.
  • Break the law or condone or encourage unlawful activity. This includes breach of copyright, defamation and contempt of court.
  • Advertise products or services for profit.
  • Are seen to impersonate someone else.
  • Repeatedly post the same or similar messages (‘spam’)
  • Include personal contact details such as telephone numbers and postal or email addresses.
  • Include a link or photo that has not been approved by the editor prior to posting.
  • Are considered campaigning. See also “trolling” above.
  • Are unrelated to the topic.


  • Just because your comment doesn’t show up right away doesn’t mean you’re being censored. When you post a comment it must first go through our filtering software. If it fails, your comment goes into a queue for manual approval.
  • Just because a comment or advertisement is on the site, doesn’t mean WCI endorses it.
  • The above rules are not intended to stop criticism or dissenters, but rather to stop those who are incapable of participating in a civilized manner.


Jack Russell Memorial Library, Hartford


  1. “there can be no doubt that any government mandate placed on a house of worship is prohibited by the Constitution.”

    Wrong — see e.g. South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom (2020).
    Also keep in mind that churches still need to follow things like building codes, and that the same government mandate also limits another first amendment right, freedom of association.

  2. Dear Pastor Mc Dowell,

    As a leader of your church, you are ultimately in control of how your church chooses to operate during this ongoing crisis. I am an Elder and long time member of your neighbor church, Divine Savior Lutheran, and you should know that it IS very possible to worship during the pandemic.

    Our church reopened about two and a half months ago, but before doing so we set a strict set of guidelines for attending, such as requiring masks and sanitizer for ALL congregants, and committing to attend a service by signing up online or via the church office. No sign up…no admittance. No mask…no admittance. We have limited our attendance to no more than 60 parishioners; this includes our pastor, Elder, ushers, organists, and any vocalists. We social distance by having every other pew vacant, and by allowing only one family unit at each end of the pews that we DO use, leaving the large, middle portion of each pew vacant for distancing. All of our pews are disinfected immediately after each service. Hymnals have been removed, interior doors locked open to limit contact, drinking fountains shut off as well as other details to aid in overall prevention.

    So know that while I do agree with you that maybe our Governor has over-stepped his bounds, it IS very much possible to worship in a way that should be acceptable to the greater majority of your congregation.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: