Churches decide whether to reopen after Trump deems houses of worship ‘essential’

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SAN DIEGO — Churches in San Diego County are deciding whether or not to reopen this weekend as President Donald Trump on Friday called on all governors to allow them to do so immediately.

A short time later, Gov. Gavin Newsom said places of worship will have new guidelines for reopening by the start of next week.

The pastor of the Promise Church in Escondido says they plan to hold in-person services Sunday after hearing Trump’s statement.

“Oh my goodness, I felt a little bit like we won the lottery today,” Pastor Cindy Hope said. “When the president came out and said churches are essential, I’m like wait, did everybody just hear that? Was I alone in hearing that?”

“Government orders, they don’t become criminal laws and I think that’s part of the confusion,” legal analyst Wendy Patrick said Friday when asked what legally happens if places of worship open before Newsom gives the go-ahead. “There could potentially be liability that one could pursue for violating an order, but the more practical question is whether or not the California state governor would do that.”

A pastor who has been in the spotlight for suing Newsom is Bishop Arthur Hodges, the lead pastor at South Bay Pentecostal Church in Chula Vista. Unlike Hope, Hodges says they will not be reopening this Sunday.

“That’s less than 48 hours away,” Hodges said. “Even if from the president to the governor to the county said there weren’t any restrictions on churches what so ever, we will still not be having church on Sunday. It’s not the legality matter. It’s the what’s prudent. What’s expedient.”

Late Friday, Hodges said the 9th Circuit denied the church’s request to reopen in a 2-1 split decision. His attorneys were working to file an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court.

Hodges said his church aims to reopen May 31, Pentecost Sunday.

As for Hope, she says Sunday’s service will have some modifications. The church will break worship into two sermons with only 25% occupancy for both. Parishioners must sign up now if they wish to attend. 

“How exciting,” Hope said. “We get to have church. I know it’s a modified version but hey we get to come and worship God and be together and that’s what’s so important right now.”

Trump says if governors like Newsom don’t reopen places of worship, he will override them.

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