‘We want God!’: Hundreds of Oregon Catholics protest church restrictions
SALEM, Oregon, December 2, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – On Friday, more than 400 people gathered at Oregon’s capital, praying and rallying for the full opening of churches after the state governor imposed limits on church attendance due to COVID-19.
“We are here today to speak in one voice: Stop the religious repression. It happened in our former country, a communist and a socialist country, and it’s starting to happen here now,” said Young Tran, a refugee from Vietnam.
“We risked our life to leave the communist country, to leave the socialist system, to come here to enjoy the freedom,” continued Tran.
The Oregon Knights of Columbus planned the rally in response to Oregon governor Kate Brown’s order that churches enforce a 25-person limit, according to the Catholic News Service.
“After protests from Archbishop Alexander K. Sample and other leaders, Brown on Nov. 25 expanded church attendance to 25 percent of capacity, or 100 people, whichever is less,” reported CNS.
The lightened restrictions failed to appease the demonstrators, who resolutely went on to demand that churches open at full capacity.
“We will not surrender one more centimeter of religious freedom to any government,” said Father Theodore Lange, chaplain of the Oregon Knights of Columbus.
“We want God!” the demonstrators chanted, echoing the cry of the Poles under communist rule in 1979, when Pope John Paul II visited Poland for a historic Mass in Warsaw’s Victory Square.
“We never thought that when we escaped from Vietnam that we would be persecuted here in the United States. That is really painful,” said Father Ansgar Pham, pastor of Our Lady of La Vang and one of the hundreds of Vietnamese Catholics who attended the rally.
Fr. Lange explained that repression of worship is wrong even if it is “not the violent sort suffered by Middle East Christians now or believers in Vietnam or Mexico in years past,” reported CNS.
“We receive from you, Father, the duty to speak clearly and loudly that we are created by you and our right to worship you comes from you and no government can repress that,” Fr. Lange said to the crowd.
Kevin Mannix, a Salem Catholic and Republican political leader, “suggested churches should at least be afforded the same treatment as grocery stores, which are allowed 75 percent capacity.”
“Why don't we remind the governor's attorneys that the Oregon constitution has in Article 1 Section 2: ‘All men shall be secure in the natural right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences,” said Mannix.
“We need to continue this,” said Ron Boyce, Oregon state deputy of the Knights of Columbus. “It just can’t be a one-day thing. It needs to be an everyday thing. We aren’t going to back down.”
“If we do not learn from history, it will repeat itself,” said Fr. Lange.