Over 1,200 Pastors Defy State Lockdown Orders, Vow To Resume Services
'Declaration of essentially' was signed by a large group of pastors
More than 1,200 Californian pasters have vowed to resume their religious services on May 31, defying the Gov. Gavin Newsom's ban on religious gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Attorney Robert Tyler, who is representing a church in Lodi that sued Newsom last month, said “declaration of essentiality” was signed by a large group of pastors, arguing their churches should be allowed to open.
Their plan is to open by the end of this month without the governor's permission while observing physical distancing guidelines.
“We believe you are attempting to act in the best interests of the state,” Tyler wrote to Newsom, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“But the restrictions have gone too far and for too long."
While shopping centers were approved to reopen, churches are still banned along with hair salons and sporting events.
Tyler said he expects that up to 3,000 churches across California could have in-person services on May 31.
“This letter was not sent for the purposes of asking for permission,” he added.
A high-ranking Justice Department (DOJ) official warned Tuesday that parts of the state’s coronavirus shutdown order might infringe upon religious freedoms in California.
Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband wrote:
“Simply put, there is no pandemic exception to the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights."
"Laws that do not treat religious activities equally with comparable nonreligious activities are subject to heightened scrutiny under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment."
NEW: ‘The Constitution will endure’ writes Judge in HALTING unconstitutional ban on in-person CHURCH in Kentucky— Neon Nettle (@NeonNettle) May 10, 2020
READ MORE: https://t.co/OzUAjydx7W
Meanwhile, Newsom proposed a 'shrinking' of the state’s prison population to help save money due to the financial pressure on budgets because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Newsom issued an updated budget to state lawmakers which suggested the closure of two state prisons, intending to close all three state-run juvenile jails.
Earlier this month, Illinois pastor Stephen Cassell of Beloved Church also defied the stay-at-home government order by reopening his church doors for service.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order said that churches of more than 50 members would not be allowed to gather for over a year due to the coronavirus.
But Cassell said the order was “a massive violation of the First Amendment.”
“We received a cease and desist order from the local health department on the 31st of March with the threats of up to four years of jail and thousands and thousands of dollars in fines,” Cassell said.