Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom, facing an uptick in COVID-19 cases in the state, on Monday ordered churches, as well as indoor malls, gyms, hair salons, and noncritical businesses, closed in 30 counties, mostly in areas with large population density.
Several pastors objected to additional restrictions on indoor public gatherings. “It is Biblical that we come together and worship, and to take that from us is even worse than taking food from our mouth,” Don Komush, lead pastor at Upper Room Church in Sanger, Calif., told KFSN-TV in Fresno. He added that he plans to protest the order: “Right now there are too many pastors who have laid down, and it is time to stand up.”
Although Newsom’s order allows outdoor services, Jim Franklin, pastor of Cornerstone Church in Fresno said it’s too hot this time of year: “To move services outdoors in 100-plus-degree weather, you are putting restrictions on churches that should not be placed upon them.”
Meanwhile, churches in the remainder of the state continue to wrestle with guidelines Newsom put in place for houses of worship on July 6. That guidance suggests that churches discontinue singing, chanting, and other practices that may contribute to the spread of coronavirus-carrying droplets.
Though the guidelines include no penalties for violations, attorney Kevin Snider said county health officials could issue enforceable orders. And some counties quickly moved to do just that. Santa Clara County, which isn’t on Newsom’s list of 30 counties in Monday’s order, issued a directive effective on Monday that bars worshippers from singing or shouting at gatherings.
Religious liberty law firm the American Center for Law and Justice said on Friday it will file a lawsuit seeking to overturn last week’s guidance in California, which it describes as a singing ban. —S.W.