Twenty-five California state legislators have joined hundreds of pastors who are calling on Governor Gavin Newsom to let churches hold in-person services. These Republican Senators and Assembly members sent the governor a letter last week asking him to allow houses of worship to reopen as part of California’s Stage 2, which has already started, and not months away as part of Stage 3.
The letter accused Newsom of favoring schools over churches, by slating the opening of religious services in Stage 3, while placing schools, “which are gathering places for large numbers of individuals,” in Stage 2. “If schools can open while still exercising appropriate physical distancing and other precautions, it seems houses of worship, many of which have fewer people on-site for a typical service than local public schools have on normal weekdays, should be able to assemble while taking steps necessary to keep their congregations safe,” the letter argues.
“The stay-at-home order has been very difficult for individuals dealing with isolation, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and domestic violence,” said Senate Minority Leader Shannon Grove, (R) Bakersfield. “It is more important than ever that houses of worship be open for millions of Californians to seek hope, encouragement, support, and healing. Houses of worship should be considered a higher priority for the Governor and be included into Stage 2 of our state’s reopening plan.”
Grove is also encouraging the public to sign on to her personal letter to Governor Newsom, which praises the Trump administration for prioritizing houses of worship in its re-opening plan. “In the federal administration’s plan to Open up America Again, houses of worship are included in the primary phase with restrictions,” her letter stated. “Just as it is imperative for all of America to have direct access to their faith again, it is necessary for Californians as well. With proper precautions, churches and other houses of worship can operate safely and help unite communities that desperately need support.”
Senator Mike Morrell, (R) Rancho Cucamonga, has publicly commended churches for the way they have adapted to meet the emotional needs of its members during the pandemic, but he said this is not a replacement for in-person services. “With the governor’s Stage 3 perhaps months away, California should look to instead partner with churches and others to reopen during Stage 2 with clear guidelines that protect public health while recognizing spiritual needs as essential and assuring the safeguarding of First Amendment rights,” Morrell said.