A Kentucky megachurch pastor is encouraging churches across the nation to “stand up” for their religious freedom and meet in-person Sunday, May 17, even if their state’s restrictions forbid it.
The “Peaceably Gather” movement by Pastor Brian Gibson of HIS Church in Owensboro, Ky., has attracted the support of nearly 50 pastors at churches in a dozen states who have signaled they will gather their congregations for an in-person service. HIS Church is a large Kentucky congregation that has four locations.
Gibson is encouraging churches, synagogues and mosques to practice social distancing and to be “measured” and “smart” with the services. But he says the state bans on church services and religious assemblies are infringing on constitutional rights.
He questions why stores are allowed to open, while churches must remain closed.
“I believe that Jesus is a lamb, but He's also the lion,” Gibson says in a video on the Peaceably Gather website. “... Right now, America needs some lions to stand up and roar. America needs some lions to stand up and roar for the Constitution. [America] needs some lions to stand up and roar for religious freedom. [America] needs some lions to stand up and roar for people of worship of every type in this great nation.”
It was smart, Gibson says, for churches to close for the coronavirus pandemic.
“To be a good neighbor, and to be prudent, we took all of our services and we went online, like so many other pastors in America did,” he says. “... “But as the days and the weeks went on, and the stats didn't come to pass that were predicted, the regulations weren't dropped.”
Some governors, he said, have said churches can’t meet again “until a vaccine has been made.” Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker’s plan would not allow churches to gather in groups larger than 50 unless there is a vaccine, highly effective treatment or the absence of any new cases over a sustained period.
Gibson said the health department stopped his church from handing out Easter eggs for children as part of a drive-thru, even though the church’s officials and volunteers wore masks and gloves. Yet the adjacent McDonald’s was “handing French fries out the window,” he said.
“It's time to stand up against that kind of a thing,” Gibson said.
First Liberty Institute is partnering with Peaceably Assemble. Gibson encouraged pastors to call First Liberty if they have questions.
“I think we need to be constitutional and make a stand. If we lay down our rights now,” Gibson said, “I fear our children and our grandchildren will grow up in a very different America than we've grown up in.”
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Photo courtesy: Sandro Gonzalez/Unsplash
Video courtesy: HIS Church
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.