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‘We ain’t cancelling Church’: Pastor defies state order to close over COVID mandates

'Enough is enough ... we must obey God rather than man,' Pastor Russell Johnson said of the Washington state government's worship restrictions.
Thu Mar 11, 2021 - 7:31 pm EST
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Russell Johnson is pastor of The Pursuit Northwest Christian Church in Snohomish, Washington. YouTube

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SNOHOMISH, Washington, March 11, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – A pastor of The Pursuit Northwest Christian Church openly committed to celebrating public services in his church in Snohomish, Washington, in spite of state lockdown restrictions. In a passionate video statement, the fiery pastor announced that “for those who decide to gather in person, they should be able to do so without the fear of government reprisal.”

Prompted by a February letter from the Washington Department of Health advising the church administrators of a potential prosecution for violating the governor’s orders restricting church attendance, Russell Johnson, the church’s pastor, launched a blistering attack on the government’s attempt to wrest control of religious worship. He claims the government contravened the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. “How did we go from ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ to ‘You must now ask our permission to gather on Sunday morning?’” he asked.

Johnson warned of a pattern whereby “every time the government grows, personal liberty shrinks.” “Regardless of what political party you're in,” he added, “that should concern you.”

As things stand, the Washington government has restricted gatherings for religious worship to “25 percent of indoor occupancy limits, or no more than 200 people, whichever is fewer.” They also mandate wearing face masks for all attendees and prohibit singing.

The pastor lamented the societal transformation currently underway, going from “a country that values religious freedom” to “having a government that now micromanages religious gatherings.” 

Squaring directly against the 25 percent limit imposed on in-person gatherings, Johnson said that this is tantamount to the congregation not being allowed to gather. Even if that number doubled to 50 percent, he insisted that still “the church is not allowed to gather,” while displaying the famous quotation of Moses to Pharoah in Exodus 9 that reads: “Let my people go.”

Johnson explained the hypocrisy showcased by politicians who, on one hand purport to follow and “trust the science,” asking those they govern to do the same, while on the other hand tell us “men can be women, women can be men, and babies can be terminated in the womb up until the ninth month.”

“Let me be clear, I trust the science. What I don't trust is the totalitarian political class and their unfettered lust for power, control, and authority,” he said.

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Johnson described receiving the notice from the Department of Health informing him of the recommendation to the Attorney General’s office that the church be prosecuted “for violating the governor’s COVID mandates.” 

“The government has told us not to gather, not to sing, not to play instruments, not to take communion,” he said. “This same government has set up hotlines encouraging neighbors to snitch on one another,” Johnson noted, adding, “Enough is enough … we must obey God rather than man.”

“This coordinated campaign of intimidation and harassment against this church will not work. At some point, somebody has to say ‘This far, but no further.’”

Johnson touched on the need for the Pursuit community to take health and well being seriously, but balanced the need against the “spiritual mandates of our religion.” He implored the congregation to pray and support one another during the “unprecedented challenges” the church is faced with as well as committing to worshipping God. “If there's ever been a time to place our hand on the plough, it's now,” he said.

The church pastor doubled down on his commitment to freely worship, saying, “I’m not here to tell anyone else how to live their life, but as for me and this house, we will serve the Lord.”

“And if the Attorney General wants to find me, I'll be here, at Pursuit, every Sunday (at) 9, 10:30, and noon,” Johnson promised.

“We cancel sickness, we cancel disease, we cancel fear and demons and darkness, we cancel power-hungry politicians, but we ain't cancelling church.”

Last month, Canadian Pastor James Coates of Grace Life Church in Spruce Grove, Alberta, was imprisoned after he held a church service for his congregation that violated a January 29 order by Alberta Health Services (AHS) demanding that church doors close.

Coates had been holding church services and ministering to his flock in violation of local government restrictions. He was asked to turn himself in to the authorities or face arrest. As he awaits trial, Coates has refused bail, the conditions of which were that he agree not to hold more church services that violate government restrictions, justified by COVID-19.

An Alberta judge recently dismissed an appeal to Coates’ bail conditions, which block his release unless he agrees to the restrictive conditions, meaning he will remain behind bars until his trial date on May 3-5.


  church restrictions, james coates, pastor, russell johnson, the pursuit northwest christian church, washington department of health, washington state

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