A federal judge has ruled California’s state government can ban churches from holding services on the basis of public health but one church pastor says churches won’t watch from the sidelines for much longer.
The lawsuit was brought by Cross Culture Christian Center, located in Lodi, which argued before the court that its services are safer than shoppers crowding into large such stores as Costco, Wal-Mart and Home Depot.
That argument failed in front of District Judge John Mendez, who said the church failed to produce any evidence that their in-person gatherings pose little threat of increasing COVID-19’s spread.
Cross Culture Christian Center was represented by attorney Dean Broyles, president of the National Center for Law and Policy, after Lodi police informed the church in late March it could no longer hold services.
According to local news media, the Christian Center attempted to meet on Palm Sunday but its members were met by police officers.
Brad Dacus of Pacific Justice Institute says the judge stood the law on its head.
“The court basically shifted the burden of proof to the church to prove that they weren’t guilty,” says Dacus, “to prove that nothing can happen.”
In American law, he says, it’s the state that must prove the claims are wrong.
‘How long do we go with this?’
California’s plan to slowly reopen the state puts churches in “Stage 3,” along with hair salons and nail salons, and gyms, which means it could be from three to six months before the doors are allowed to open.
“How long? How long do we go with this?” asks Pastor Jack Hibbs, who leads Calvary Chapel Chino Hills.
For defenders of Gov. Newsom, the answer to the pastor’s question is predictable: Stay closed as long as Gov. Newsom says so, with the argument that churches should be following the law, and defying the state’s lockdown order could get people killed.
But many churches are growing tired of waiting for “their turn” to reopen after schools, childcare facilities, retail business, manufacturing, and professional offices, which all fall under “Stage 2” according to the state’s plan.
So a push is coming for churches to hold services Sunday, May 31.
“Facing the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Christian church and other faiths have been relegated to ‘nonessential’ status by governing agencies throughout the United States,” states a petition vowing to open in three weeks.
According to Hibbs, who supports the May 31 opening date, the Church answers to a higher calling than California’s state government.
“Where does the church come in, and what do we do regarding our callings and regarding the institution of the church?” Hibbs asks rhetorically. “The church transcends the governments of this world and the politics of this world.”
According to Dacus, Judge Mendez gave the State of California too much leeway and refused to compare churches with other businesses that are free to operate. That comparison would have ruled in favor of the church, he insists.
“A church gathering that carries out the checklist that we recommend, and that is being utilized by churches around the country,” Dacus tells OneNewsNow, “would clearly be a safer place than many of the places that are allowed to be open and function today.”
Back at Calvary Chapel, Pastor Hibbs says keeping the doors closed for six months puts the church “right in the middle” of the flu season.
“That means you will not be opening up,” he warns. “That means the church, like a can, is getting kicked down the road.”
And that deadline ends, he says, on Sunday, May 31.
Copyright American Family News. Reprinted with permission.