California Churches Rise Up Against Democrat Gov Newsom, Move to Resume Services
Attorney reveals plans to defy governor's order and begin in-person services
Churches in California are planning to defy Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom by moving to resume in-person services.
The defiant move was announced by an attorney who drafted a “Declaration Of Essentiality For Churches” earlier this month.
The lawyer, Robert H. Tyler, has submitted a letter to California Governor Newsom (D-CA) informing him that several churches across the state are planning to reopen, despite his order.
The letter informs Newsom that pastors across the state have signed onto his declaration and now plan to resume in-person services on Sunday, May 31.
Tyler, president of Advocates for Faith and Freedom, published a copy of the letter to the governor, which says that the declaration has been signed by over 1,200 pastors representing churches with “tens of thousands of congregants.”
“The indefinite nature of the restrictions on faith-based meetings is in violation of the very principles this country was founded upon,” writes Tyler.
“We agree that the government has a legitimate interest in preventing the spread of COVID- 19, but that interest cannot go unchecked,” ads Tyler, who also represents a church in Lodi that has sued Newsom, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“The state has subjectively assessed each individual activity and decided whether the activity was essential or nonessential,” Tyler writes.
He later adds that “essential activities include parking and shopping at Walmart, Costco, Home Depot, a pot dispensary, or a liquor store where oftentimes hundreds of other customers are shopping.”
Under the California reopening guidelines, churches have not been permitted to resume in-person services until phase three, when movie theaters and salons are also allowed to reopen for business, at a time not yet determined.
Earlier this week, President Donald Trump declared houses of worship to be essential.
The Department of Justice has also been supportive of churches in some of these instances, viewing the limitations on religious gatherings as a violation of the First Amendment.
Newsom said he would release updated guidelines for reopening churches as soon as Monday – despite saying in an interview earlier in the week that California was “just a few weeks away from meaningful modifications.”
"We look forward to churches reopening in a safe and responsible manner,” said Newsom.
"And we have guidelines that we anticipated completing on Monday, and we’re on track to do just that.
"We take the issue very, very seriously, and to heart, and we have been very aggressive in trying to put together guidelines that will do justice to people’s health and their fundamental need and desire to practice their faith.”
The letter to the governor continues: “In order to restore the proper balance between public safety and individual liberties, the clergy we represent have declared their intent to begin holding in-person church services beginning on Sunday, May 31, 2020.
"All services will be held in compliance with CDC and state guidelines for social distancing as is required of ‘essential businesses.’”
"We would welcome the opportunity to be a part of the solution by meeting with you and working toward your efforts in serving the community interests.
"Allowing the religious community to be heard and respected will inevitably lead to a mutually beneficial resolution,” the letter concludes.
As Neon Nettle previously reported, Trump warned that he "will step in" and “override” any governors who don’t “do the right thing” and allow churches to reopen.
Trump did not elaborate further, and it’s unclear whether Newsom will agree to allow churches to reopen in accordance with new houses of worship reopening guidelines.