About 800 miles south of my office, the leaders of North Valley Baptist Church in Santa Clara, CA, are no doubt having conversations about how to move forward. The church, which was mandated to close and remain closed earlier this year due to California Governor Gavin Newsom and Santa Clara county’s decrees, chose not to comply.
After moving ahead with what they felt was the mission of the church, they are now faced with more than $52,000 in fines from various governments and agencies.
Back here in Washington, churches are facing similar mandates that restrict the size of gatherings or disallow them altogether; for many small congregations, this effectively shutters them forever.
As we’ve discussed before, there are a number of churches and church leaders who have done their best to comply with these mandates out of respect for authority and out of respect for those they seek to attract who may walk in the door with fear for their health.
But that patience and willingness to comply with directives is wearing thin as those organizations approach red ink in their balance sheet and are forced to answer questions about their survival. This is especially so after the CDC released new figures showing how comparatively harmless COVID-19 is to healthy individuals.
It appears to me that there’s more of an interest within leftist-run states to prioritize the relaunch of gambling and other vices (liquor stores and marijuana shops) ahead of spiritual and mental health (churches and ministries). But I’m just calling it like I see it.
This is one of the main differences between political thinkers on the left and the right. Those on the right see religion and its influences, in most cases, as necessary and critical to the wellbeing of society, or at the very least, permissible constitutionally. Most on the left see religion as a less important leisure activity, an unnecessary risk to the health of society.
While leaders in some leftist-run states, like Washington, may call churches essential, their continued actions to keep their doors closed say otherwise about the way they really feel.
It is time for Washington, and all other states, to remove restrictions on all religious gatherings, and allow people of goodwill to carry out the mission of their faith – to serve and love others in a time of great need, and to provide for the spiritual health and wellbeing of millions of people who have been forced into isolation and, in some cases, poverty.
Over the last six months, Washingtonians have proven that they understand the risks of illness and of spreading it to others. The vast, vast majority have complied with mask mandates and stay home when sick. And the COVID case numbers and deaths have dropped dramatically.
Elected and appointed leaders cannot ask churches to remain in a state of limbo forever. The longer they wait to allow them to meet and minister, the more likely they are to see churches ignore the rules and guidelines and carry out the mission of their church without interference.
While we aren’t aware of any churches in Washington that are currently facing fines from the government for remaining open or meeting in groups that exceed allowance, we would like to hear from you if you know of any.
The Bible tells us that we live in a fallen world and we know that there will always be illness present within it. But Christians and people of goodwill need to be prepared to go to battle on this issue. If governments are allowed to commandeer churches on the basis of public health even one time, they will seek to do it more and more often.
It’s time to open all churches and places of worship in Washington State.