Are Churches Essential or Not? by LIBERTY COUNSEL for Charisma News
Whether churches are “essential” in the midst of this coronavirus crisis is a critical question that must take into consideration many factors. The related question, whether churches should open or close, must be considered in the context of each church and community.
Before addressing these questions, it is important to present the real facts surrounding the recent arrest of the pastor of The River at Tampa Bay. Many of the statements made by Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister are false. His statements have put both the pastor and the church in danger.
On Thursday, March 26, Sheriff Chronister told the pastor and other staff members by speakerphone that the church could meet on Sunday, March 29, and that he had no intention of shutting it down, and no intention of arresting anyone. He gave these assurances after he was informed of all the precautions the church proposed to undertake, including encouraging seniors or people with predisposed health conditions to stay home, limiting attendance by enforcing a 6-foot separation, requiring each person to use hand sanitizers upon entry and installing over $100,000 of high-grade hospital air purifiers. A deputy sheriff also toured the church to inspect the premises the same day.
The meeting with Sheriff Chronister and his deputy on March 26 was called to discuss the draft Hillsborough County order presented by the council the same day. That order was then passed on Friday, March 27, and went into effect at 10 p.m. This was the first and only enforceable order passed by the county. Based on this order and the fact that the church went above and beyond the health guidance, the sheriff gave the green light for the church to meet. On Saturday, March 28, the church was thoroughly sanitized. On Sunday, March 29, the church met. Then on Monday, the same sheriff who gave the green light to meet a few days earlier held a press conference announcing the pastor’s arrest, during which Sheriff Chronister made many false statements.