As Covid-19 cases resurge, state mandates have been returning to the stricter rules seen at the beginning of quarantine. With this comes the question of what determines whether an organization is a necessity or a luxury. While some may think this has a simple answer, others are troubled with the idea of what the government deems essential, particularly since part of this conversation has to do with religious places of worship, specifically churches, in a predominantly Christian country.
Churches in California were shut down for a second time in the middle of July, 2020. While many peacefully complied with Governor Newsom’s orders, several churches enacted a federal lawsuit. This lawsuit was brought on the basis of infringement on the First Amendment of “religious freedom.” Those who deemed it unconstitutional for Newsom to ban churches due to their “singing and chanting,” claimed that the governor was targeting religion. However, during a global pandemic, their argument against the ban is obsolete, and many courts deemed it as such, keeping in mind that not just churches, but other places of “importance” that encourage large gatherings of people have been banned as well.
An even larger problem is the fact that several churches completely defied the orders, and kept their doors open. Some church leaders neglect the fact that many of their churchgoers belong to age groups most susceptible to the virus, and churches are a hotspot for Covid-19 to spread. The average number of people in a single church in America is 184, however, megachurches often host upwards of thousands of members.
Dealing with the pandemic as a leader of a group that relies on community is difficult. A local Los Angeles pastor had some thoughts on the backlash of the ban. “I understand where these pastors are coming from, they have a right to express their thoughts. However, as a pastor myself, I believe my responsibility is to take care of my congregants; I have their best interests in mind: their spiritual, emotional, and physical health. When their physical health is in danger by going to service, it is not a good idea to gather in close proximity, because the virus is contagious.