Add Nevadans to the list of Americans who aren’t ready to surrender their Constitutional rights to a pushy state governor because of panicky media coverage of a bad flu virus from China.
Pastors and other religious leaders from around that state are demanding that restrictions on in-person services be lifted immediately, reports KTNV in Las Vegas. Some 190 of them signed a letter objecting to Gov. Steve Sisolak’s emergency order limiting gatherings to 10 people, including in churches. They say it is unnecessary.
David Oberg, pastor of Faith Alive Christian Center in Reno, summed it up in a press release: “We simply ask for him to reconsider that decision and allow us the freedom of religion and to peacefully assemble again.”
Quite apart from Constitutional concerns, the letter said religious services are essential for many people’s mental and physical health in the time of hardship and uncertainty. It compared the merits of religious services to those of businesses that have lifted restrictions, like restaurants, bars that serve food and marijuana dispensaries, among others.
“…as Governor Sisolak announced Phase 1, we heard him allow restaurants, bars that serve food, and cannabis dispensaries to open, but no mention of churches reopening,” Oberg pointed out.
The letter said churches would reopen with maximum emphasis on keeping worshipers healthy.
In a press conference on May 15 Sisolak stuck to his anti-church guns, saying it wasn’t yet safe to “allow” in-person religious services for his subjects.
“No one wants churches to open more than me, and my mother, probably, more than me,” he said. “I mean, because she doesn’t think it’s the same attending mass online as it is attending mass in person. At the same time it is difficult to social distance in a house of worship.”
Defending his removal of basic American rights, Sisolak said many people who attend church services regularly are elderly, the most vulnerable population to be affected by COVID-19. He did go as far as to lift limitations on drive-up services in church parking lots. He also suggested leaders could hold services outdoors with social distancing, and said he is working with religious leaders to determine the best time to further lift restrictions.