1,200 California Pastors Defy State Orders, Vow to Hold Services

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Despite evidence that the coronavirus can quickly spread through church-related activities, more than 1,200 pastors in California plan to defy state orders.

They will resume in-person religious services starting May 31. This is in defiance of a temporary ban on religious gatherings put in place by Gov. Gavin Newsom. But, is this a good idea?

silhouette of a man inside of a dark church entrance
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Pastors Declare Churches Are ‘Essential’, Should Be Allowed to Open

Robert Tyler is an attorney who represents a church that sued Newsom last month. Tyler said a large group of pastors signed a “declaration of essentiality”. The declaration states that churches are essential and should be allowed to open.

It details the pastors’ plan to reopen on May 31 whether the governor approves or not. They say they would follow social distancing guidelines. However, that might not be enough.

For example, high rates of viral spread recently occurred at a church event. Three people died as a result.

“We believe you are attempting to act in the best interest of the state,” wrote Tyler to Newsom. “But, the restrictions have gone too far and for too long.”

Related: Pastor Dies From COVID-19 After Defiantly Holding Services and More News

3,000 Churches in California Could Have In-Person Services on May 31

Newsom has allowed some businesses in California to reopen. This is because of how hospitalizations have flattened over recent weeks. However, churches, hair salons, and sporting events are still banned.

Churches will reopen as part of the state’s third phase. Newsom said this could happen within weeks. But Tyler said he expects that up to 3,000 churches will not wait that long. In-person services will be held on May 31 if all goes as planned.

“This letter was not sent for the purposes of asking for permission,” said Tyler.

A high-ranking Justice Department official warned that parts of the shutdown order might infringe on religious freedoms in the state.

“Simply put, there is no pandemic exception to the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights,” wrote Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband. “Laws that do not treat religious activities equally. With comparable nonreligious activities are subject to heightened scrutiny under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.”

However, the church’s request was previously denied by U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez. He wrote that “during public health crises, new considerations come to bear. And, government officials must ask whether even fundamental rights must give way to a deeper need. To control the spread of infectious disease and protect the lives of society’s most vulnerable.”

Despite this, many people would prefer using google home as a speaker to hear church services. People are concerned that older people will be at risk. Will they be safe?

Related: Churchgoer Exposes 180 People to COVID-19 During Mother’s Day Service