First of all, the only reason I am writing this article is to learn. I want to expand my knowledge and understanding of why several churches are disobeying "mandatory directives" issued by Santa Clara County Public Health. Does the directive go against the First Amendment? Are the churches wrong for disobeying the order? Is there an underlying reason the California government seems to be holding religious organizations to stricter directives?
Let's start with a little background...while scrolling Facebook, I ran across a video from North Valley Baptist Church in California where Pastor Dr. Jack Trieber was informing the public of their situation. At times pleading for someone to make their situation make sense. He talks about how they followed guidelines issued by the health department to shut down. After many weeks had gone by and realizing their community was not a hot spot as predicted, the church decided to meet and follow Hebrews 10:25 (see below). Pastor Trieber explained that the congregation obeys social distancing and other guidelines while in attendance, but the spiritual health of his congregation is supreme. His request to allow the church to meet without incurring fines is a sincere and heartfelt plea to the health department and other government officials.
I learned there are numerous churches in California taking a stand against similar orders, laws, or mandatory directives and meeting to worship God in their sanctuaries. Dr. David Gibbs, the founder and president of Christian Law Association was scheduled to speak at my church, but had to cancel due to the case load of helping seven churches with cases comparable to Pastor Jack's. This situation is real and a precedence is being set that will effect the rest of the country.
"Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together."
Is this a first amendment issue? The Washing Post published an article on May 30th about a California church that took its case all the way to the Supreme Court. Now this caught my eye and I quote from the article..."Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s liberals in the 5-to-4 vote." This one line of the article throws up a couple of red flags. Either this isn't a first amendment issue, or the first amendment is subjective. In short, I say YES it is a first amendment issue, and according to the vote...YES the first amendment is subjective. If it was objective then every vote would have been in favor of the church or against the church. I think this fits with my Talk Time video, What Influences You? Most people think they view the world and interpret laws in an objective manner, but even the Supreme Court can't unanimously decide a case. I would offer that we need something in our world that is objective regardless of man's interpretation.
As I was researching this topic, I found it interesting when people quote parts of the Bible to say that the church is wrong, but don't take the time to study the whole thing. The author of a "Letter to the Editor" published by the LA Times quotes Romans 13:1-2 (see below) and says it might be a good idea to practice what you preach. Which by the way, I completely agree with, we should practice what we preach. He apparently never read Acts 5:29 (also below). God commands us to worship Him. Do you really think God would ordain an institution to govern His people, and then require His people to obey that institution when it attempts to forbid worshiping God? I don't think so. Believers should be the most law abiding citizens, the friendliest neighbors, and the first to help someone in need. If a believer has to choose between obeying God or obeying man, choose God.
"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers...Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation."
"...we ought to obey God rather than men."
While having a conversation the other day a great point was brought up as to why the government might be focused on restricting and fining churches but not businesses. Money. This is purely my opinion, but if you are still reading this you might actually be interested. Municipalities don't loose income if a church has to close its doors, but will certainly loose money if a business has to shutdown. Some people don't like that churches qualify as a non-profit under the IRS, but don't have a problem with McLeod Health being a 501(c)(3). I completely agree that our physical health is important and those that work to keep us healthy should benefit from a non-profit status; but if you believe as I do, that "our spiritual health is supreme", then shouldn't those that keep us spiritually healthy benefit from a non-profit status? Here is an article published by the Washington Post that basically uses other articles to say tax payers helped pay for Joel Osteen's house. This is just a distraction from the real purpose of the church, to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. Churches offer communities so much more than tax revenue. Churches offer hope to those in despair, a solution to those battling addiction, and an answer to life's tough questions.