By Michael Hernandez
NEWPORT BEACH—Pastor Jim Domen, founder of Church United, a church ministry equipping pastors as culture-changers—said Wednesday in an interview with the Citizens Journal that he now expects 3,000 churches to re-open on Pentecost Sunday.
“Over 1,200 pastors have signed the Declaration of Essentiality” said Pastor Domen. Pastors can still sign the petition written by Attorney Robert Tyler of Advocates for Faith and Freedom that will be presented to Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday. The petition written in English and Spanish can be read and signed at: https://www.tylerbursch.com/religious-petition-to-governor-gavin-newsom.
Church United news conferences promoting the Declaration of Essentiality have been held at Water of Life Church (Fontana: Senior Pastor Danny Carroll); Cornerstone Church (Fresno: Senior Pastor Jim Franklin); Full Gospel Church (Oakland: Bishop Bob Jackson); and Love and Unity Christian Fellowship (Compton: Senior Pastor Ron Hill). Approximately $40,000 in gift cards and 1,000 boxed of food were distributed in Oakland and $45,000 in gift cards are being distributed in Compton.
A 3 p.m. Thursday, May 21st news conference in Chula Vista has been scheduled at South Bay United Pentecostal Church (395 D Street)—which is the site of a California lawsuit involving Bishop Art Hodges against Gov. Gavin Newsom (filed the first week of May) that says the governor’s stay-home order “denigrates” churches by depriving them of their religious freedom as well as constitutional rights of speech and assembly.
The church lawsuit states that California is one of eight states whose stay-home orders did not carve out an exception for churches and that the order “criminalized all religious assembly and communal religious worship.” The lawsuit was pushed forward because churches “can’t reopen until the fourth and final stage, well after other entities and businesses are allowed to open.
“To be blunt, California’s present regime, which mandates that Californians who need the Spirit of Almighty God settle for the lesser spirits dispensed out of California’s liquor stores, is demeaning and denigrating to all persons of faith.” Plaintiffs contend that, at least for their congregants, their assemblies are an “essential service” and should therefore, because of fundamental First Amendment Protections, be treated equal to Stage 2 “essential businesses.”
The lawsuit was similar to a lawsuit filed by another San Diego County Church, Abiding Place Ministries in April. Both lawsuits went before U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant, who ruled against both churches and said, “I think it’s a reasonable and necessary restriction” due to “a critical public health concern.”
U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant also rejected a request for a temporary restraining order against the state that would have allowed South Bay United Pentecostal Church to hold in-person services. Paul Jonna, a lawyer for the church, questioned why factories are allowed to reopen in the second stage of the Governor’s plan but not churches? “What’s the factual or scientific basis for distinguishing factories from churches?”
Meanwhile, Hilltop Tabernacle in Chula Vista and Rushing Wind Church in Oceanside held in-person church services on Sunday, May 17.
(Editor’s Note: The Church United motto is: “Pastors Activating, Uniting & Transforming Culture.” Pastors can place an order of a minimum of 2,000 discounted masks, view a church re-opening survey or find out more about Church United by going to their website at: https://www.churchunited.com/.)
California State Legislator letter to Governor Newsom asking for Places of Worship to reopen: 200506_HouseOfWorshipRequest
Michael Hernandez, Co-Founder of the Citizens Journal—Ventura County’s online news service; editor of the History Makers Report and founder of History Makers International—a community nonprofit serving youth and families in Ventura County, is a former Southern California daily newspaper journalist and religion and news editor. He worked 25 years as a middle school teacher in Monrovia and Los Angeles Unified School Districts. Mr. Hernandez can be contacted by email at [email protected].