Declare Churches Essential and Let People Choose To Attend

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PROPOSITIONS & ARGUMENTS

The Day of Pentecost is also known as the birthday of the Christian church. May 31, 2020 is the 1,990th anniversary of the original Day of Pentecost that occurred in the year A.D. 30. We declare that on May 31, 2020, or sooner, we will resume corporate worship as instructed in Hebrews 10:24-25.

Facing the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Christian church and other faiths have been relegated to “nonessential” status by governing agencies throughout the United States. But we, the signers of this declaration, believe and contend that gathering together in fellowship and worship is “essential.”

As ministers of the Gospel, we have complied with the orders of governing bodies to cease meeting in-person as has been our practice for nearly 2000 years since the first Day of Pentecost. We respect the governing authorities and their role in public safety. However, the governing authorities have suspended our meetings indefinitely, refusing to provide a date upon which we can lawfully commence our practice of worshiping God together in our houses of worship. While we are thankful to the governing authorities for the significant efforts made to protect the public from COVID-19, the remaining threat of COVID-19 is outweighed by the severe restrictions upon the free exercise of our religion that we deem “essential.” We are committed to public safety and will follow reasonable guidelines established and applied to similarly situated organizations.

Fundamental to the First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion is the right to gather and worship.[1] The First Amendment requires that the burden imposed on the free exercise of religion be narrowly tailored to serve the governmental interest in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Here, just as occurred in the U.S. Supreme Court case entitled Church of the Lukumi Balalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah, the government’s “proffered objectives are not pursued with respect to analogous non-religious conduct, and those interests could be achieved by narrower ordinances that burdened religion to a far lesser degree.”[2] The current governmental orders are not narrowly tailored here because innumerable secular enterprises and places where people gather are deemed essential, including those that pose even greater risks of COVID-19 than religious assemblies.

NOW THEREFORE, WE DECLARE THAT WE WILL RESUME IN-PERSON RELIGIOUS ASSEMBLIES BEGINNING ON THE DAY OF PENTECOST, MAY 31, 2020, OR SOONER.

[1] See W. Va. State Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 638 (1943) (“The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts … [such as the] freedom of worship and assembly.” This protection was incorporated against the states in Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296 (1940).

[2]Church of the Lukumi Balalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520, 546 (1990).

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