More than 1,200 Calif. religious leaders to open churches on May 31st, despite state order

FILE – In this April 11, 2020, file photo, a person films pastor Nicolas Sanchez, center left, celebrating Easter Vigil Mass at his church decorated with candles and pictures sent by his parishioners attached to their pews at St. Patrick Church in North Hollywood, Calif. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 2:15 PM PT — Thursday, May 21, 2020

More than 1,200 religious leaders in California will be reopening their places of worship to hold in-person services on May 31st, despite Governor Gavin Newsom’s temporary ban on religious gatherings.

“Governor Newsom, unlock these doors,” stated Reverand Neil Mammen. “Governor Newsom, open up our churches.”

A coalition of church leaders and members have signed a “declaration of essentiality,” which stated they will open their doors without state approval.

“The church is essential, especially for times like these,” said Bishop Bob Jackson.

Parishioners wear face masks as they file out of an in-person Mass at Christ the King Catholic Church in San Antonio, Tuesday, May 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

According to pastors, during tough times like these, churches need to be opened to address the needs of their parishioners.

“We have all kinds of emotional issues that are going on in our church, we have marital issues in our church,” explained Pastor Matt Brown. “We’re seeing a spike in depression, suicides and drug addiction.”

The Department of Justice has sent Newsom a letter telling him not to discriminate against places of worship.

Under stage two of the governor’s reopening plan, various businesses and organizations will be allowed to resume operations. However, churches aren’t permitted to reopen for in-person services until stage three.

There’s no telling when California will reach that phase.

The Rev. Praveen Lakkisettit, left, wears a face mask as he delivers communion to parishioners during an in-person Mass at Christ the King Catholic Church in San Antonio, Tuesday, May 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

“I think it’s time we list churches as essential, just like Home Depot’s essential, medicine’s essential and many other things that are open right now,” added Pastor Brown. “Spiritual health is just as essential as physical and emotional health.”

The pastors are planning to observe social distancing guidelines, limit capacity, provide sanitizing supplies and take other precautions upon reopening.

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