As the national debate over when and how to reopen society from coronavirus shutdowns, many Christians believe their constitutional rights remain under assault.
A recent court decision fueled these concerns when a superior court judge in California decided that a church petitioning to hold indoor services would not be permitted to do so, as reported by KCAL.
“Immediate threat to public health and safety”
Judge Mitchell B. Beckloff cited the “immediate threat to public health and safety due to the COVID-19 pandemic” as the reason for a temporary restraining order against indoor congregations at Sun Valley Church, according to KCAL.
He also handed down an order to another house of worship, Grace Community Church, that requires congregants to wear face coverings and abide by social distancing guidelines when attending outdoor services.
The judge’s decision gives county health officials permission to access property in an effort to verify that his mandates are being followed.
“The court finds the county health order has a real and substantial relationship to public health and safety,” he wrote in his ruling, adding that the “potential consequences of community spread of COVID-19 and concomitant risk of death to members of the community, associated and unassociated with the church, outweighs the harm that flows from the restriction on indoor worship caused by the county health order.”
Beckloff’s ruling is the latest chapter for these and other churches across the nation fighting to reopen their doors to worshippers.
“I will override the governors”
President Donald Trump has frequently expressed his belief that houses of worship should be allowed to hold services amid the ongoing public health crisis.
As far back as May, he declared churches essential and called on governors in all states to allow religious congregations.
“The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now, for this weekend,” he said at the time, according to CNBC. “If they don’t do it, I will override the governors.”
Months later, however, judges like Beckloff continue to stand in the way of pastors hoping to resume services inside of their sanctuaries. Of course, these churches and others appear poised to continue appealing their cases.
As Americans of faith head to the polls in California and beyond, many are sure to consider the ongoing limitation on their ability to worship as a major factor in deciding how to vote.