More than 1,200 Calif. pastors plan to resume services in defiance of governor’s order

A person films a pastor celebrating Easter Vigil Mass at St. Patrick Church in North Hollywood, Calif on April 11, 2020. The head of the federal Justice Department's Civil Rights Division told Gov. Gavin Newsom Tuesday, May 19, 2020, that his plan to reopen California discriminates against churches. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Civil disobedience, usually associated with left-wing causes, is raising its head among America’s churchgoers. And if the epicenter of it appears to be California, one can only imagine how the rest of the nation will rise up.

Some 1,200 California pastors are planning to resume in-person services on May 31, disregarding Gov. Gavin Newsom’s ban on religious gatherings that was intended to fight the spread of coronavirus.

The group of pastors signed a “declaration of essentiality” which asserted that their churches are essential to people’s daily lives and should be allowed to open just like restaurants and other businesses. The document also declared their intention to reopen on May 31, with or without official permission, while practicing physical distancing and other epidemiological precautions.

“We believe you are attempting to act in the best interests of the state,” Tyler wrote to Newsom, reported the Los Angeles Times, “but the restrictions have gone too far and for too long.”

Taking safety precautions completely out of the hands of American citizens, Newsom shut down business in California and is now allowing reopenings as the state’s hospitalizations have dwindled. Stores, offices, restaurants and shopping centers were allowed to reopen as part of California’s second phase, but churches remain banned along with hair salons and sporting events until the state’s “third phase.”

On May 18, Newsom said that could be weeks away.

Robert Tyler, an attorney for a church in Lodi that sued Newsom last month, said some of the pastors serve multiple churches. He said that up to 3,000 churches across California could hold in-person services on May 31. “This letter was not sent for the purposes of asking for permission,” he explained.

The letter comes as a high-ranking Justice Department (DOJ) official warned Tuesday that parts of the state’s shutdown order may infringe upon Constitutionally protected religious freedoms in California.


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