By Michael Hernandez
CHINO HILLS—Senior attorneys for two California legal firms—Tyler and Bursch and the Pacific Justice Institute shared their legal expertise today on a zoom conference hosted by Chino Hills Calvary Pastor Jack Hibbs on “How and When to Re-Open Churches.”
“According to Gov. Galvin Newsom, we are in the first phase of Re-Opening the State of California,” said Managing Partner Robert Tyler of Tyler and Bursch. “The second phase is to Re-Open Schools and the third Phase (which will not happen for three to six months) is opening up churches, sporting events and other entertainment venues.
“We are representing churches in four counties—Ventura, Riverside, Mendocino, and San Joaquin County. We are taking a Supreme Court ruling that says there must not be an unnecessary burden placed on religious practice (for churches to exercise their religion). Now the State is saying that churches can have drive-in services in addition to livestream services.”
“Santa Barbara County is now allowing faith-based organizations to re-open but it is not clear if that means churches. As pastors you have to hear from the Lord what He is calling you to do? We will argue all day for you (using) constitutional law at no cost to you.” (Editor’s Note: To see the website go to: www.TylerBursch.com).
“Galvin Newsom’s plan to open after several months is not going to fly,” said Brad Dacus, President and Founder of Pacific Justice Institute. “U.S. Attorney General William Barr has stated the authority of government to circumvent fundamental (first amendment) rights in case of an emergency is diluted as time goes by.” According to Dacus, other states opening up their churches will impact California.
“Churches cannot be subject to unequal treatment. You cannot treat churches unfairly. To have schools open before churches is illogical. Churches in a rural area have a stronger case as do smaller churches in low risk areas of the county. Whether you are talking about an outdoor or indoor service is also important.”
Dacus said he would prefer a strategy of churches in rural areas and minimal covid-19 cases open first rather than a strategy of all churches opening up at the same time. He referred pastors to the Pacific Justice Institute website to get particulars on how to open up their churches. (Editor’s Note: To see the website go to: www.pacificjustice.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].