Churches in California are being impacted by government mandated lockdowns and 3,500 churches in that state announced they are reopening with or without government permission. Many are concerned that the lockdowns implemented by the state and municipal governments may go on for months, if not indefinitely.
In an interview with Good Morning America, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that the lock down in his city may never end. This announcement followed an order by LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer on Tuesday, May 12, 2020, that she was extending the city’s stay-at-home order another three months.
Garcetti quickly contradicted Ferrer’s statement by adding the extension to the end of August will only include the use of face masks and social distancing. Garcetti did not address bans put on public gatherings that includes schools and churches.
But then Garcetti added that “LA will never completely open until we have a cure.” Some believe the Democratic mayor plans to keep the city in some version of a lock down until a vaccine is found, that may be months, even years away.
Along with this, California Gov. Gavin Newsom has initiated at three-phase lock down transition, with the reopening of the churches falling in the third stage. Because of this, many churches are convinced their reopening could potentially be put off for months and who knows when churches will be allowed to open in LA County.
But some churches have had enough, and on May 13, 2020, 500 churches in California announced that they will restart services on May 31, 2020, (Day of Pentecost) with or without the state’s approval.
Speaking on behalf of this group, Bob Tyler, a religious liberty lawyer based in California, said:
“The churches are not asking for permission. The governor is sitting here as a dictator, trumping the constitution and is kind of hanging on to this state emergency for as long as he can hold on to it.”
According to Tyler, this group of 500 churches will only allow a maximum of between 25% to 30% of capacity in their services and some may even initiate a booking system.
A week earlier, 3,000 churches, that are part of the California Church United network, also announced they will be reopening on the May 31, 2020 weekend as well.
These churches plan to restart services despite a recent ruling by a California judge that Gov. Newsom has the right to ban churches from reopening.
Though the Bible exhorts believers to submit to human governments (Romans 13:1-2; 1 Peter 2:13-17), there are several instances when believers practised civil disobedience, and disobeyed government orders.
In Exodus, two Jewish midwives refused to obey the Egyptian Pharaoh’s orders to kill the Jewish boys at birth and in Daniel 6:1-28, Daniel refused to obey a government order to pray to the king.
And in the New Testament, after being told to quit preaching the Gospel by a council in Jerusalem, Peter and the apostles refused saying:
“We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29 NASV)