Close to 500 California pastors are planning on re-opening their churches regardless of whether they have the state’s approval.
"The churches are not asking for permission," said religious freedom attorney Bob Tyler, who is advising the pastors, CBN News reports.
"The governor is sitting here as a dictator, trumping the Constitution and is kind of hanging on to this state of emergency for as long as he can hold it,” he added.
Tyler noted that several of the pastors have already signed a petition asking California’s Governor Gavin Newsom to allow churches to meet if they commit to adhering to social distancing regulations.
According to the petition, the pastors are committed to opening up by May 31st as it is “The Day of Pentecost … also known as the birthday of the Christian church.” This year on May 31, marks “the 1,990th anniversary of the original Day of Pentecost that occurred in the year A.D. 30.”
“We declare that on May 31, 2020, or sooner, we will resume corporate worship as instructed in Hebrews 10:24-25”, the petition asserts.
According to Tyler, the pastors are “committed to opening regardless of what the governor decides.”
The petition also stipulates that the pastors also plan on advising Gov. Gavin Newsom on their plans to respect social distancing guidelines while still meeting in-person for church.
Pastor Matt Brown of Sandals Church in Riverside, who signed the petition, shared in a video on his church’s website that churches must reopen as there has been “a spike in depression, suicide, [and] drug addiction,” likely as a result of isolation.
The President of the Christian college William Jessup University, Dr. John Jackson, also noted the need for physical human presence.
“The presence of God matters, but touch matters [too]," he said. "I love technology but it is not a replacement for physical presence.”
He continued noting that he takes issue with the government’s decision to prioritize certain businesses over the church.
"I find it very inappropriate that I can go to the grocery store and buy a loaf of bread and be with all other kinds of people. I can go to the hardware store and get my supplies for my home maintenance but I cannot go to a church," Jackson said.
Judge JohnMendez, however, rejected the idea in his ruling, saying that shoppers going to a business to buy a specific item is different from churchgoers communing together.
While commending the churches' compliance to the government, Dr. Russell Moore, the president of the Southern Baptists' Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, cautioned that the government must view churches as essential.
"I don't think that churches should be treated differently because they're churches," he said.
"The issue has to be safety and so you have some areas where churches are treated in a different category that sees churches as less essential than other means of gathering. I think that's a real mistake."
As of Friday, Newsom has permitted the re-opening of "lower risk" workplaces like clothing stores, florists, and sporting goods stores under stage 2 of his reopening plan.
Churches, however, are not to reopen until stage 3 of the state's plan.
Photo courtesy: ©Sparrow Stock
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. He is also the co-hosts of the For Your Soul podcast, which seeks to equip the church with biblical truth and sound doctrine. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.