A network of 3,000 California churches are planning to defy Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s shutdown orders by reopening for in-person services, Fox News reported Friday.
California Church United pastors, which represents nearly 2.5 million members, announced Thursday that they plan to reopen May 31 instead of waiting for stage 3 reopenings, which includes churches along with businesses like salons and gyms, according to Fox.
The leaders chose May 31 because it marks Pentecost and the birth of the Christian church, making it fitting for a “rebirth” of services.
“Our churches are part of the answer, not part of the problem,” said Danny Carroll, senior pastor at Water of Life Community Church said according to Fox.
“We’re an essential part of this whole journey and we’ve been bypassed … kicked to the curb and deemed nonessential.”
Matt Brown, another California pastor, took issue with the governor’s inclusion of churches as nonessential during the pandemic.
“He didn’t ask us. He overstepped and he’s overreached,” Brown said. “And he needs to step back and he needs to declare that the church is an essential part of what we do as Americans, as what we do as Californians,” he said according to Fox.
“Our fear is simply this,” Newsom said, “congregations of people from far and wide coming together in a closed space at a large scale remains a point of concern and anxiety for us. We are working on guidelines for physical distancing and working with faith leaders talking about unique conditions in their own facilities. Nothing is etched in stone.”
The shutdown of houses of worship across the country has raised questions about the constitutionality of the orders and whether they infringe upon civil liberties, prompting Attorney General Bill Barr to crack down on possible religious freedom violations by involving the Justice Department, most recently in Virginia.