District Attorney Dan Dow has declared San Luis Obispo County in central California a “sanctuary county” for churches holding worship services or singing.
According to The Christian Post, Dow will not prosecute churches in his county who have defied a recent order from California Gov. Gavin Newsom outlawing singing in churches.
“Inherent with my responsibility to enforce the law is the discretion that I have … to pursue only those charges that are warranted and are in the interest of justice,” Dow said in a video on Twitter.
Dow believes banning churches not only from meeting, but singing as well, will not help the county move forward.
“Now more than ever in 2020, we need more people attending their houses of worship and seeking help from the Almighty for an answer to the coronavirus,” he said. “In that spirit, I’m calling on people of faith in our county and across our state, across our country and across the world, to pray for peace [and] healing.”
According to the Los Angeles Virus Tracker, San Luis Obispo County has only 2,254 cases as of Monday with 16 deaths, though the county remains on the governor’s watchlist for a “failure to meet state benchmarks.”
Churches in counties on the Governor’s watchlist are restricted from meeting in person, as well as meeting in households.
The Attorney General also acknowledged the incongruity between arresting church members for singing while the state also releases prisoners to help prevent spread.
“It would be, in my opinion, the very definition of insanity if we simultaneously branded a person of faith as a criminal for singing in a house of worship,” Dow said. “It would be a severe injustice for my office to charge a person with a crime who has simply chosen to practice their faith by singing with their congregation.”
According to The Christian Post, many churches believe the order is a threat to their religious freedom, including three houses of worship who sued the state and several state health officials over the singing ban. The case claims that the state has no authority to ban a church’s activities.
As previously reported by Christian Headlines, John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in California, also defied leaders by meeting on Sunday despite the governor’s order.
“In response to the recent state order requiring churches in California to limit or suspend all meetings indefinitely, we, the pastors and elders of Grace Community Church, respectfully inform our civic leaders that they have exceeded their legitimate jurisdiction, and faithfulness to Christ prohibits us from observing the restrictions they want to impose on our corporate worship services,” said a statement from MacArthur and the church elders.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Chuang Tzu Dreaming
Mikaela Mathews is a freelance writer and editor based in Dallas, TX. She was the editor of a local magazine and a contributing writer for the Galveston Daily News and Spirit Magazine.