A coalition of more than 260 Massachusetts clergy sent a letter to Gov. Charlie Baker (R) Thursday, urging him to recognize churches as “essential” and to include them in the first “reopening” phase in the state.
Massachusetts Family Institute sent the letter and a press release in an email to Breitbart News.
“We recognize the risks and uncertainties surrounding COVID-19, and the extraordinary measures we are all having to take, and we have continued to serve, especially in feeding the hungry and comforting the many who are suffering now,” read the letter sent to Baker and members of his Reopening Advisory Board.
Update about the Worcester pastor who has resumed holding church services.https://t.co/jDo274IqIf
— MA Family Institute (@MAFamilyInst) May 7, 2020
The clergy members, mostly Protestant pastors along with several Catholic priests, expressed disappointment that the governor’s executive order regarding the coronavirus lockdown banned religious services at which more than ten people are present.
They are requesting that churches be “swiftly and publicly” acknowledged as “essential” and that “they be included in the first phase of the reopening on May 18,” stated the press release.
“[C]hurch IS essential for us,” the clergy members wrote. “Your order of March 23rd would forbid us from gathering together to worship God, but the word of God commands us to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. We have done our best to temporarily adapt to extraordinary circumstances, but this must not continue.”
The faith leaders continued in expressing their discontent that “marijuana dispensaries, liquor stores and abortion clinics have all been deemed ‘essential,’ but churches and other places of worship have not.”
They also reminded Baker and the members of his advisory board that the freedoms of religion and assembly are protected by both the U.S. and Massachusetts Constitutions.
The signers added:
When the phased reopening of our Commonwealth begins, the reopening of our churches must be in the first phase. It is upsetting that, unlike roughly half the states across our nation, churches in Massachusetts were not deemed “essential” at the outset, but this must come to an end. This is consistent with the federal guidelines for a phased reopening, where in phase one, “places of worship can operate under strict physical distancing protocols.”
The clergy noted they are “fully prepared to exercise extraordinary care and precaution” to protect the health of their congregations through the use of social distancing, “just as other businesses Massachusetts has deemed essential.”