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By Jamie Stewart and Toni DeRosa
The Shafter Press and Wasco Tribune 

Court ruling clears way for indoor church services

 

December 24, 2020 | View PDF



The state ruled Dec. 10 that excluding churches from holding indoor services goes against Freedom of Religion.

California Superior Court Judge Gregory Pulskamp issued an injunction against Gov. Gavin Newsom’s planned covid-19 restrictions, following a similar injunction was placed in New York, in favor of a Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn on behalf of Father Trevor Burfitt.

The ruling stated that the governor’s restrictions failed to treat houses of worship in a manner equal to the favored class of entities which would include big-box retail stores, grocery stores, hotels, train and bus stations, and other entities that are considered essential businesses.

According to the State of California Superior Court, they state that the members of the court are not health experts and should respect the judgment of those with special expertise and responsibilities in this area.

“Even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten,” the statement reads.

The court said people continue to have the freedom to walk the aisles of Walmart or other stores, while not being able to attend church services and are required to do so virtually or outdoors.

With the changing weather and the temperature dropping, it was clear that the current weather will not be conducive to an outdoor religious service.

Area churches have adapted to restrictions.

New Generation Church

Pastor Frank Sanchez, of New Generation Church, stated that they are doing presents for all of the kids at the church and they also have about 30 kids and families in Wasco that don’t attend New Generation, but the church is giving them presents as well.

New Generation has online services on Sundays at 11 a.m., streaming on NGWasco YouTube and livestreaming on Facebook. They are also on Wednesdays at 7 p.m.

St. John’s Catholic Church

St. John’s Catholic Church, on 9th Place, is offering a Facebook Christmas Eve Mass at 7 p.m. The church has been holding virtual services every Sunday. The church does not offer Saturday Masses at this time; however, their Sunday Mass is 10 a.m. in English and noon in Spanish.

The church is also hosting a Christmas Day Mass in English at 10 a.m. and at noon in Spanish.

Canyon Hills Wasco

Pastor Fernando Segura, of Canyon Hills Wasco, said that they are not having a Christmas Eve or Christmas Day service because they are maintaining a low profile during the pandemic.

It is a different story in Shafter as the majority of the churches have been holding indoor services for a few weeks now. Those churches stated that they will be holding services indoors and will be continuing their livestreaming as well for those parishioners who wish to worship virtually.

St. Therese’s Catholic Church

St. Therese’s Catholic Church, in Shafter, will be holding indoor services for the holidays for those people who want to attend in person.

Shafter Mennonite Brethren Church

Pastor Pat Coyle, of Shafter Mennonite Brethren Church, said that they have been holding services indoors for several weeks.

“We did hold services virtually and outdoors for a time, but as the weather got colder, we felt it necessary to move the services indoors,” said Coyle. With the recent ruling in favor of the churches by the State Superior Court, Coyle said that it does allow him to rest a little easier.

“We didn’t enjoy being rule breakers, as it were, but this ruling does make the move easier,” he said.

That was a sentiment shared by a lot of churchgoers in Shafter.

“I have been attending church for a few weeks now in person,” said Marjorie Bertrand. “I can go shopping for food, get gas, shop for clothes, why can’t I go to church and worship indoors? I thought that it was silly to make us go to church outdoors in the first place.”

 

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