Religious leaders resist COVID-19 restrictions

As COVID-19 gradually progresses, The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned the public to avoid mass gatherings and significant events in order to social distance. Despite these warnings, churches across the globe are still inviting their members to congregate under the pretense that God is needed in this time of crisis.

“Religious leaders are encouraged to find alternatives to in-person gatherings and to avoid endangering their congregants. Individuals should not gather in religious buildings or homes for services or celebrations until the stay-at-home order is lifted,” said Tom Wolf, the governor of Pennsylvania.

Despite statements being made by governors across the U.S., many religious figures believe that worshipping is essential, and they are continuing to hold religious gatherings.

Bishop Gerald Glenn, the pastor of New Deliverance Evangelistic Church in Virginia, had a sermon on March 22 in which he preached that “God is larger than this dreaded virus” and then announced that he was not afraid to die.

The day after the sermon, Virginia banned all private and public gatherings, and on March 30, everyone was told to stay home until further notice.

On April 7, the church announced that the pastor had passed away from COVID-19. Following Glenn’s death, his daughter, Mar-Gerie Crawley, urged the public to heed the official social distancing advice. This past weekend, she announced in social media that she, her husband, her sister, and mother are all currently fighting this virus.

In addition, according to KTLA News, three Southern California churches are protesting social distancing by attempting to sue California Gov. Gavin Newsom over his shelter-in-place mandates. They believe the ban on gatherings such as church goes against the First Amendment, which provides the freedom to religion and assembly. The suit hopes to deem church and worship as an essential gathering.

James Moffet, a senior pastor at Church Unlimited in Indio, was fined for holding a Palm Sunday service, as mentioned in the suit.

“[Moffatt] believes that Scripture commands him as a pastor to lay hands on people and pray for them; this includes the sick,” The suit said, “Moffatt also believes that he is required by Scripture to baptize individuals, something that cannot be done at an online service.”

In reaction to the several riots by pastors and churches, Judge Cynthia A. Bashant, the U.S. district judge,  said the right to freedom of religion doesn’t “include the right to expose the community to a communicable disease.”