As several states slowly reopen businesses after a period of quarantine, over 100 Ohio pastors are petitioning Governor Mike DeWine to allow his stay-at-home order, which expires on May 1, to expire without extension. This would allow their churches to reopen.
Their letter says DeWine’s instincts have been “directed by Almighty GOD,” therefore he should keep going in that direction and let them hold in-person services with dozens, if not hundreds, of people at a time so long as they take precautions.
For some reason, they highlight the fact that May 1 would represent 40 days of staying at home as if that means anything for the virus.
Interestingly, the duration from when the initial “Director’s Stay at Home Order” was first issued to when the extended orders are set to expire on May 1st will be a total of forty days. The number forty in the Bible generally represents the season of trials and testing.
While we know our State is not out of the woods yet during this outbreak, we understand there is a balancing act between protecting both our public health and our economic interests. We agree social norms must be adjusted even after the orders expire to minimize COVID-19.
In a statement, Pastor J.C. Church noted that most deaths have hit the elderly, suggesting that as a reason to allow everyone else to start gathering in public.
“We are in economic meltdown. We have to keep in mind that nearly 75% of the deaths attributed to COVID-19 have been to persons over the age of 70. When the stay at home orders were issued, social ills like the Opioid Crisis never went on lockdown,” says Pastor Church.
It’s worth pointing out that people over 70 are most likely to go to church. Lifting the order, then, would make them even more vulnerable to contracting the virus. These 100 pastors are pretty much throwing them under a bus.
Also, that point about the opioid crisis is completely pointless. Opioids aren’t contagious; no one ever died from opioids by merely gathering with large groups of people.
The letter includes instructions for what churches would do if they were allowed to meet. It’s a long list of suggestions, though. Masks would be handed out, but wearing them would not be required. Members would be told to sanitize their hands “before you attend.” Physical contact would be discouraged but not forbidden.
In other words, by opening their churches, these pastors would be doing as little as possible to prevent the spread of the virus. It would put their members and their communities in danger.
Keep in mind that the stay-at-home orders are meant to keep everyone safe. Even if grocery stores are open, they’re not meant to be a place where people hang out. These pastors want to open their churches and allow people to gather without forcing precautionary measures on anyone. It’s a recipe for disaster.
All the more reason DeWine should extend his order, not let it expire.
Pastors have plenty of options anyway. They can livestream their services. Congregants, if they’re financially able, can still tithe online.
The fact is we’re not ready to return to normal yet — not without risking another wave of infections, which doctors warn could be even worse than the first. Just because pastors want to hold services again doesn’t mean the governor should cave. It’s in everyone’s best interest to stay at home and avoid places that are open. At least until the virus can be contained and the chance for infection is minimal.
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