Pastor vows to pay fines for Christians who defy lockdown to worship in person
PETITION: Support pastors fighting against oppressive state mandates! Sign the petition here.
August 31, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – As California officials continue to threaten residents for exercising their First Amendment right to religious assembly, one Christian pastor is standing up to offer to pay any legal penalties for those who worship in defiance of state mandates.
Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom has banned indoor religious services (along with various types of secular gatherings) in 29 counties representing 80 percent of the state’s population, in the name of containing the spread of COVID-19. Numerous churches have defied the order, including Grace Community Church of Sun Valley, Cornerstone Church of Fresno, Destiny Christian Church of Rocklin, and Harvest Rock Church of Pasadena.
Last week, Pastor Ché Ahn of Harvest Rock Church announced that he would pay for any tickets given to those who choose to attend in person despite the order, Pasadena Now reported.
“What I want to do is encourage you, and I have encouraged all those with underlying conditions to stay home,” he said. “I’ve encouraged the elderly to stay home. I want to encourage you that if you feel, hey, I don’t want to get a ticket, please stay home. Now, if you do show up and you get a ticket, Harvest Rock Church is going to underwrite that ticket, we’ll pay for your citation.”
Local officials have threatened Ahn with fines, jail time, or worse for his civil disobedience, such as an August 13 letter by Assistant City Prosecutor Michael Dowd. “Your compliance with these orders is not discretionary, it is mandatory,” Dowd wrote. “Any violations in the future will subject your church, owners, administrators, operators, staff, and parishioners to the above-mentioned criminal penalties as well as the potential closure of your church.”
But Ahn explained that “I feel there has to be some resistance in this overreach because the numbers are not adding up. We have seen a decline in COVID cases and a flattening of people dying in California and, besides, we really believe that we are doing what our First Amendment has given us a right to do — the freedom of religion, the freedom to assemble, the freedom of speech and of course the freedom to worship.”
Elsewhere in the state, Godspeak Calvary Chapel in Thousand Oaks and North Valley Baptist Church in Santa Clara are facing thousands of dollars in fines for holding in-person services and for singing during service, respectively. Los Angeles County has gone to court four times so far in efforts to to secure a court order to quash indoor religious services at Grace Community Church.