Although the state of California has begun the gradual reopening of some nonessential establishments, some pastors are not very happy that they were not considered before June and hope to open their congregations as soon as possible.
His dissent has reached the attention of the United States Department of Justice, which sent a three-page letter to Governor Gavin Newsom on Tuesday saying that the first amendment requires religious sites to receive the same treatment under the law, even under the emergency of Health.
The head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, Eric S. Dreiband, said Newsom has shown “unequal treatment of faith communities” by restricting their face-to-face meetings, while the entertainment and e-commerce industries are being challenged. has allowed its reopening.
Some parishioners like Daniel Tinajero agree with this request. He believes that the churches should never have closed.
“As a good Catholic, the church is the place where you go to take refuge,” said Tinajero. “But it all depends on belief. There are some of us who believe that God is the doctor of doctors; For my part, I would have tried to be in church most of the time. ”
The San Bernardino resident said that so far he has not met anyone, nor heard of anyone close to him suffering from coronavirus, and is therefore confident that churches should be open.
“I think my faith is supernatural because I believe that Jesus is going to save us from any contagion,” he said.
Reopening in time
Manuel Chavez, who is a faithful of the San Anthony Parish church in the city of San Gabriel, said that in his opinion “for the common good”, it is not yet time to open the churches for large congregations.
“Social distancing is going to be more difficult and I think there is no adequate personnel to enforce the appropriate rules,” said Chavez.
Chavez added that if he has heard of religious centers that have had coronavirus infections after they have opened and he thinks it is not worth it. His church currently conducts Masses in English and Spanish and posts them on social media.
“On a personal level, I feel that physical distancing is more important for the common good than for the economy,” he said.
Pastor Ada Valiente of Maywood Baptist Church said her congregation is willing to follow directions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local authorities.
“Los Angeles is one of the places with the most infections and we cannot compare it to Riverside or San Bernardino,” said Pastor Valiente.
The pastor said that each religious entity opines according to their situation, but in the case of her church she believes that the pandemic has not affected them as they continue to congregate through social networks.
“Some people think that if they do not meet physically it is not a temple, but the church is outside the temple,” he said.
Pastor Valiente said that before the pandemic, her congregation had around 350 active members, out of a total of 500. For now, her church is consulting to see the measures that will be taken if they reopen for the plan proposed in phase three. , which starts next month.
“We are training, at the beginning we will not accept children or people with medical conditions. We will have small group meetings, ”said Valiente. “It would be a lack of wisdom to open up and put people at risk.”
The Catholic Church agrees that people’s health comes first.
Isaac Cuevas, director of community affairs for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, said they are working hard daily with civic, health, and state leaders to ensure the safety of churches.
“We are seeing how to maintain the health of our churches while maintaining social distancing,” said Cuevas.
This includes disinfecting places before and after people enter, looking for a way to safely give the sacrament, and for the time being refrain from taking the blood of Christ (wine).
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles oversees about 300 parishes in Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara counties. Its active members exceed 5 million.
“We are not only working with the Los Angeles rules but also other counties,” Cuevas said.
Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez said in a statement that they have closed churches out of love for “our vulnerable brothers and sisters” and to avoid spreading infection.
“Now, we are working on it, trying to reopen our churches. I am sure we are getting there, which will now be a matter of weeks, not months, ”said Archbishop Gomez.
In California, most religious entities have obeyed the order to stay at home, canceling their services, and reducing contact between people.
Some expressed concern after a Butte County church in northern California celebrated Mother’s Day with about 180 members participating. Two days later, one member tested positive for the coronavirus.
Pastor Valiente explained that she does not know the reasons why other churches want to reopen, but she believes that perhaps they are not being properly advised.
“I want to think that they are not taking stock of their context,” said Valiente. “In my context, my rights are not being violated because nobody is prohibiting me from preaching the gospel.”
According to the governor’s office, the churches may restart their face-to-face meetings, as long as they follow their distancing rules, in phase three that begins in June.
A month later, on July 4, at least in Los Angeles County, authorities are already seeking to have all businesses and organizations open, including religious centers; all this, as long as things about the coronavirus infected get better.