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In potential defiance of Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s lockdown order, about 3,000 California churches plan to reopen for in-person services on May 31 to serve an estimated 2.5 million worshippers.
Religious leaders made this announcement last Thursday during a news conference in front of the Water of Life megachurch in Fontana, Cal.
May 31 is the Day of the Pentecost, marking the birth of the Christian church, an appropriate day for houses of worship to be reborn, according to Danny Carroll, the Water of Life Community Church senior pastor.
“Our churches are part of the solution, we’re not the problem here. But we’ve been deemed nonessential. We’ve been kicked to the curb,” Carroll declared, the San Bernardino County Sun reported.
“The train has already left the station. Churches are ready to roll out, no matter what. That said, we are not trying to be rebels or activists here. We don’t want to go to court over this,” he added.
Newsom, a far-left Democrat, apparently wanted churches to wait until Stage 3 of the COVID-19 reopening plan, the point at which gyms, movie theaters, and other locations will supposedly be allowed to resume business operations subject to social distancing and other guidelines.
Newsom has also suggested that a compromise is possible that would enable churches to reopen sooner to greet congregants.
During the shutdown, the faith community has continued to feed the needy and the homeless and make masks and gowns for healthcare workers, among other charitable endeavors, while the state banned in-person services.
“You have churches in Santa Ana and Los Angeles feeding people and meeting their needs. How can Costco stay open but not the church?” wondered Pastor Jim Domen of the Church United, which represents 1,000-plus Golden State pastors.
Sandals Church Pastor Matt Brown similarly asserted that “We are torn between caring for and loving our people and [Newsom’s] order. He didn’t ask us. He overstepped and he’s overreached. And he needs to step back and he needs to declare that the church is an essential part of what we do as Americans, as what we do as Californians.”
Freedom of religion is protected under Article 1, Section 4, of the California constitution and the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Both founding documents also protect the right to peacefully assemble.
Separately, on Friday, a federal judge put on hold Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s ban on in-person religious services. The judge’s temporary restraining order means that Kentucky churches can open today for gatherings. Beshear, a Democrat, previously announced that religious congregations can start holding services in person as of May 20, subject to various limitations including physical distancing.
U.S. District Judge Greg Van Tatenhove, a G.W. Bush appointee, wrote that the governor failed to provide “a compelling reason for using his authority to limit a citizen’s right to freely exercise something we value greatly — the right of every American to follow their conscience on matters related to religion.”