By Michael Hernandez
SOLANA BEACH—”We need to be like the Lion of Judah and have some courage and take a stand,” said Pastor Che Ahn, Pastor of Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena. “We have a mandate from God. It is a Constitutional right—a First Amendment right to worship and assemble. We need an awakening and revival for our churches.
“We have become like the Church in Laodicea or Ephesus who has lost its first love,” said Pastor Ahn during the Open California Churches zoom hosted by Salt and Light Council, moderated by Pastor Jim Franklin of Cornerstone Church in Fresno and attended by over 220 participants—who heard six pastors and four attorneys speak on the topic: “Churches are essential.”
“Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, and be strong,” said Pastor Greg Diamanti of the Santa Maria Church of God in Christ. “We have had to quadruple our security in all our locations (five San Diego County campuses), because of the physical threats made against us,” said Awaken Pastor Jurgen Matthesius who was raised in East Germany behind the Berlin Wall. “As soon as you acquiescent or try to appease the mob; the mob will not leave you alone. The spirit of the mob is to crucify.”
“Thank you for hearing these stories from the trenches,” said Pastor Jim Franklin of Cornerstone Church in Fresno. “We need to open our churches. It is our biblical mandate. We need to open our churches. We have our First Amendment right to do that and we have the U.S. Supreme Court behind us. The momentum is in our direction. The Irish statesman and philosopher Edmond Burke said: ‘For evil to triumph; all it takes is for good men to do nothing.’ I quote President Ronald Reagan who stood at the Berlin Wall and said: ‘Mr. (Mikhall) Gorbachev, tear down the wall.’ I say to you open these doors. Open your churches, pastors.”
“We have been wide open since May 31st and we have not had a single case of COVID-19. Some folks have become infected with COVID but none from the fellowship. COVID is to be expected,” said Godspeak Pastor Rob McCoy of Newbury Park. “It infected President Trump, the most protected person on the planet. It is going to do what it does.
“Churches are shut down. Our communities are paralyzed in fear. But where is the data on suicides? on closed businesses? Some 65 percent of restaurant owners will never reopen. How about the abused who are quarantined with their abusers? Schools are closed. Businesses are devastated and yet our health officer receives a 12.5 percent raise.
“Why are churches targeted? We need to stand on behalf of our neighbors, our businesses, our families devastated by tyranny. Where the spirit of God is, there is liberty. Liberty is not an idea of man; but God’s idea. The source of liberty is Jesus Christ,” said Pastor McCoy. “We had 85 baptized on a (recent) Sunday and two Sundays ago, we had 100 come to Christ. The shepherds need to take the lead.
“If we don’t stand together; we will fall apart. We are being enslaved and we have abdicated our responsibility to know the law. We are called to the ecclesia—the public square and to be open for the safety of our citizens.”
“The real battlefield is government,” said Salt and Light Council President Dran Reese who also oversees the Biblical Voter, the Judeo-Christian Caucus, and Public School Exit websites. “We have to take back the government realm.”
Open California Churches was hosted by Salt and Light Council whose mission “is to see America’s biblical and moral foundations restored by training and equipping churches to establish Salt & Light Biblical Citizenship Ministries that will defend and promote life, natural marriage, our constitutional and religious liberties.”
According to the Open California Churches website: “California Governor Gavin Newsom has no plan to ever allow churches to fully reopen at any time in the future!
“Governor Newsom has arbitrarily decided to order the majority of California back into the most restrictive purple category and impose a 10 p.m. curfew just ahead of Thanksgiving, including closing church doors once again; yet, he has arbitrarily made exceptions for 28 other non-essential operations, including massage parlors, tattoo shops, nail salons, barbershops, jewelry stores, day camps, libraries, bookstores, toy stores, liquor stores, marijuana dispensaries, and abortion clinics, among others – all these and more get an exception from the Governor to remain open indoors, but not churches.
“Sadly, we must conclude that Governor Gavin Newsom considers churches less than non-essential.”
Attorneys give counsel to pastors on fully reopening California churches
“The 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision (given in favor of churches and synagogues in New York) Wednesday night before Thanksgiving gives churches Constitutional protection on their First Amendment rights,” said attorney Chuck Limandri, chairman, of the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund. “You can’t discriminate against churches or treat them differently.”
“This U.S. Supreme Court decision removes the (attendance) caps from churches,” said Attorney Kevin Snider, Pacific Justice Institute. “Our chief litigator grew up as a little boy in communist Romania. His parents came to the land of freedom (America) but then they encountered persecution in the Greater Chicago area,” said Attorney Mathew Staver of LIberty Counsel. “California has been the most restrictive state (in America) regarding churches. Some 99.1 percent of all churches are in Tier 1 where Governor Gavin Newsom allows zero worship. There is not even worship allowed in the privacy of a home or apartment.
“The Pasadena public health department and the Pasadena criminal prosecutor have threatened fines and jail not only for Pastor Che Ahn (Harvest Rock Church) but all parishioners—those attending church,” said Staver. “We have been delayed enough. It is past time that the U.S. Supreme Court gets involved and deals with California.
“We just received a call before this zoom from the clerk of the U.S. Supreme Court and we look forward to their review of the Pasadena Harvest Rock Church case.”
“I know a pastor in San Francisco that is from Russia that called his parents in Moscow and told them it was difficult to find a church that was open. His parents’ response: ‘You (in the United States) are more Communist than we are,” said Attorney Robert Tyler of Advocates for Faith and Freedom. “People can’t afford another lockdown. Lives will be lost, Suicides and drug addiction are going up. Churches are needed more than ever.”
“The basic constitutional problem is that comparable secular businesses are not subject to a 25 percent occupancy cap, including factories, offices, supermarkets, restaurants, retail stores, pharmacies, shopping malls, pet grooming shops, bookstores, florists, hair salons, and cannabis dispensaries,” said U.S Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
“In certain quarters religious liberty has fast become a disfavored right. For many today, religious liberty is not a cherished freedom. It’s often just an excuse for bigotry and it can’t be tolerated even when there’s no evidence that anybody has been harmed,” said U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. “Religious liberty is in danger of becoming a second-class right.”
(Editor’s Note: To view Wednesday’s Open California Churches zoom on YouTube go to:
To find the new website go to: https://www.opencaliforniachurches.org/ .)
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].