SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Religious services have become the latest flashpoint in the push to reopen.
President Trump’s demand Friday that churches be allowed to open immediately goes directly against California’s reopening plan. The president did not explain how he would enforce his order to governors.
Pastor Bryant Wyatt at Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Del Paso Heights said he’s taking an extremely cautious approach to all this. While he considers church essential, he said it’s his duty to put safety first. Local guidelines to reopen churches, mosques and synagogues are in the works right now.
“We do have our rights, but within our rights we have to be responsible,” Pastor Wyatt said.
Although the president says open now, Pastor Wyatt is waiting another few weeks until he makes sure his members are safe.
“My responsibility is more so for the protection of the people than it is for me to claim my rights,” he said.
Pastor Wyatt’s safety plan includes spaces between worshippers, staff wearing face masks and hand sanitizing stations.
But hundreds of other churches are jumping in faster vowing to defy the governor’s order. This includes a church in Lodi that, despite being shut down by police last month, said it would stay open.
The state has not put out any new guidance yet. Houses of worship are not set to reopen in California until phase 3 of the governor’s reopening plan.
“We’ve been engaging the faith community we look forward to churches reopening in a safe, responsible manner,” Governor Newsom said Friday.
Newsom said he’ll have guidelines ready by Monday, but he didn’t clarify whether he’d allow churches to reopen immediately.
There have been Coronavirus outbreaks linked to church gatherings in California, including 71 members of a missionary church near Sacramento last month.
Pastor Wyatt says he’s taking no chances but hopes soon that he can be there for his members again.
“We are very affectionate with everyone and to not be able to see them, to not be able to touch them, it’s kind of hard,” he said.