AMERICA—On Wednesday, May 20, a lawyer representing a Lodi church that sued California Governor Newsom, indicated more than 1,200 California pastors have signed a “declaration of essentiality.”
Despite the statement that Governor Newsom made on Monday, May 18, stating that churches may open in weeks and not months, pastors have taken action and stated their announcement to reopen churches and in-person services on May 31.
California had been the first state to issue a mandatory stay at home order. Stage 1 issued the essential workers (grocery employees, nurses) to go back to work. In early May, Stage 2 was reached for some counties where some businesses and public spaces were allowed to reopen with strict social distancing applied. Soon, Stage 3 will allow higher risk businesses to reopen that require closer proximity, including nail salons, gyms, movie theaters, and religious services.
Some opposed did not see this act as an effective way to slow down the coronavirus but stated Newsom’s order has treated the churches as more of an entertainment than essential and displayed a sense of disrespect for the right to worship as stated in the constitution.
One of many Californian civilians voiced to twitter stating, “the separation of the church means that the government can’t keep churches closed. This is a huge constitutional violation.”
Overturning the church ban increased in agreement, causing the issue to present to the U.S. Court of Appeals. In a legal perspective, the issue was between whether California has a dominant rule in treating churches amongst other mass gathering places like concerts or live sporting events. The Justice Department stepped in and suggested churches may be allowed to open safely by limiting their congregation to allow social distancing. The department wrote that the state’s reopening plan must deliver “equal treatment of persons and activities of a secular and religious nature.”
According to 3rd District Supervisor Mike Maggard, the governor is in the process of attempting a compromise with church leaders but will likely stand down on the issue within time, as he did when Orange County refused to close its beaches.