IN THE practice of ethics, it’s not always a matter of good versus evil. Sometimes it’s good versus good. Whether from laziness or ideology, one way of addressing this clash of virtues is to opt for one at the expense of the other.

Responding to the virus, some say, “We know better. You shall do this and shall not do that. Or else!” From the opposite extreme we hear, “Ain’t nobody gonna tell me what to do!”

More difficult is to search for how two good things can be complementary, not contradictory.

Besides being a state legislator, concerned for the common good, I also pastor Trinity Church, Kingston. Last March, my physician-wife and I searched for ways that the church could stay open while observing best practices for safety.

Later I was asked to be one of three who made recommendations to the Department of Health and Human Services for the state’s protocols for religious organizations.

People ask my thoughts about the right of the state to regulate churches. Politically speaking, our Founding Fathers steered a moderating course. The First Amendment to the Constitution has two relevant clauses:

The Establishment Clause — Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion — states that there shall be no official “established” state church. (It does not mean that the state cannot help religious groups.)

The Free Exercise Clause — or prohibiting the free exercise thereof — says the government cannot dictate or inhibit a religious group’s worship, doctrine, or witness.

President Jefferson’s 1802 letter to the Danbury, Conn. Association of Baptists added the phrase, “a wall of separation between Church and State.”

As for the Bible’s teaching, first, Jesus’ commanded, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” — (Luke 20:25).

Second, the state has a God-appointed role. The Apostle Paul said, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities.... The authorities that exist have been established by God” — (Romans 13:10). The Apostle Peter wrote, “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by Him” — (1 Peter 2:13-14).

But there is a limit to such submission. The authorities reprimanded early Church leaders, “We gave you orders not to teach in [Jesus’] name. Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching....” But Peter and the other apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than men’” — (Acts 5:28).

We are to obey authorities unless they dictate how we worship, what we teach, or whether we may share our faith.

Nor may government grant one segment of society rights denied to the church. Such bias, decreed in some states, has been reversed following litigation.

New Hampshire has steered a wise course.

Most pastors who have called me either exceed the COVID-19 protocols or, if there’s a question, ask for clarification. Following scriptural teaching, they understand the rights of the state.

In those few cases when someone takes “I will obey God rather than men” out of context, I respond, “Then obey God! Obedience to God is ‘being subject to the authorities,’ and ‘submitting yourselves to every ordinance of man’ unless the state crosses the line of doctrine, worship, witnessing or bias.”

There are a few churches who are acting irresponsibly. They don’t seem to understand wearing masks, social distancing, and the like will not impede their preaching of the Gospel. Approaching town folks to share Christ is their right, but the state has the right to tell those witnessing to wear masks.

Such misbehavior neither honors Scripture, blends rights with responsibilities, nor shows love of neighbor.

Finally, limiting excessive focus on “my rights,” Jesus said, “If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two” — (Matthew 5:41). When the protocols ask you to wear a mask, wear one, but no one, including God, is asking you to wear two.

Rep. Mark Pearson is an assistant Republican floor leader and rector of Trinity Church in Kingston. He lives in Hampstead.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

WHILE THE primaries are a fading image in the rear-view mirror and the chosen candidates are fully immersed in their general election stumping, there are still some interesting lessons to be learned from the results of those primary contests.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020
Monday, September 14, 2020

I’VE BEEN an activist since I was eight years old. As a kid of Polish descent growing up in Minnesota, other kids would tease me for my funny-sounding name (it’s pronounced My-ka). I could sit there and take it, or I could stand up for myself. I chose the latter and I’ve been doing so ever since.

IN CELEBRATION of the start of hunting season, Andy Schafermeyer devoted his September 6 “Adventures Afield” column to advertising different ways to hunt black bears. Bear hunting season in New Hampshire began Sept. 1.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

AFTER A TOUGH primary, we can only win when we stand united. In New Hampshire with a short general election — seven weeks at most — and an evenly divided electorate, in order for Republicans to win, all candidates and their supporters must come together as soon as possible to support the tic…

THE 2020 legislative session has been unlike anything we’ve faced before as a Legislature. Our work, and the way we fulfill our constitutionally appointed duties, has changed and adapted in response to the coronavirus. Throughout everything, I am proud of the work and dedication of the New H…

Thursday, September 10, 2020

ANTI-ASIAN racism, from the assaults in towns, to the fear of East Asians, to President Donald Trump’s name calling, continues to pervade the country. COVID-19 is being used as the fuel to justify these thoughts and actions. If xenophobia of East Asians continues to spread, the effects could…

WHILE I AM hesitant to borrow the title from Thomas Paine’s famous Revolutionary War pamphlet, I believe this is just what we need now — an injection of some much-needed common sense into the 2020 election debate before it’s too late and Donald Trump somehow gets re-elected.

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

WHILE SOME readers of this piece may know me as a state representative, others know that I’m also still a college student. As myself and my classmates begin this school year, please keep in mind that it begins with a grave risk to our health and that of college staff and surrounding communities.

Sunday, September 06, 2020

EACH YEAR on Labor Day, we celebrate and honor the people who do the work in our communities and those in our history who have contributed to the struggle of labor. But this year there are no picnics, parades, or celebrations, as working families hold their breath hoping for the best. Job lo…

Thursday, September 03, 2020

UNTIL RECENTLY, the Executive Council has been a lesser-known institution in New Hampshire, but more and more Granite Staters are recognizing the important role it plays in protecting our fundamental rights and ensuring that the state’s money is wisely spent in a way that benefits all.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020