Pastor: Mass. governor violating Constitution by ordering churches to close over virus

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Grace Baptist Church on Oakhill Avenue in Attleboro MARK STOCKWELL/THE SUN CHRONICLE

In the wake of a Republican congressman from Louisiana telling his governor he believes new limits on the size of church gatherings are unconstitutional, the pastor of a Massachusetts church says his state’s governor has violated the Constitution by ordering churches not to hold services because of coronavirus.

Jeff Bailey, pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Attleboro, said he knows the outbreak is serious and requires precautions, according to the Attleboro Sun Chronicle. Still, he said, Gov. Charlie Baker has violated the Constitution and scripture.

“We just don’t think he has the authority to do it,” Bailey said of Baker’s order to ban any gathering of 25 or more people, including faith-based gatherings, to combat the virus.

Bailey said he and his flock have voluntarily called off services for the next two Sundays. But the decision was his to make and not the governor’s, he said, explaining that Baker violated the constitutional concept of separation of church and state and the passage in Hebrews 10:25 not to “forsake the assembling of ourselves together.”

The Baker administration did not comment this week, but Bailey said he has spoken to other pastors who agree with his stance.

Pastor David Meunier of Plainville Baptist Church also said he had a “a Biblical-based concern” about the governor telling churches to cancel services.

Meunier noted the Bible quotes Jesus as saying “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s”

This means there is a spiritual realm as well as a government realm, he said, and Baker should keep out of the religious one.

“He doesn’t have the authority to decide when or how the church should meet,” Meunier said.

Bailey said he will re-evaluate after two weeks. He said he understands gatherings must be limited because of the virus, but does not want government telling churches what to do.

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