Genesee Sun, May 20, 2020
Over 300 pastors from across New York signed an open letter urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to prioritize the safe re-opening of churches for congregational worship.
Rev. Jason J. McGuire, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms (NYCF), said “It has been nearly two months since Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered that worship services and other public gatherings be cancelled or postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Out of respect for government authority and concern for the health of their congregants and the general public, thousands of New York churches have temporarily and voluntarily suspended in-person worship services. The suspension of in-person services has taken a toll on churches, pastors, and Christian believers.”
“When Gov. Cuomo unveiled his New York Forward plan for the phased re-opening of the state, religious services were not mentioned in any of the four phases he identified. This omission has created unnecessary confusion and frustration. Yesterday, congregants learned that Gov. Cuomo intends to include them in Phase Four, but Phase Four is unacceptable for our first freedom,” McGuire continued.
“Initially, churches complied with drastic measures to combat COVID-19. At this stage, however, a blanket ban on worship services across the state is no longer needed to protect the public. In some areas of the state, it is safe for churches to re-open if social distancing is observed and other protective measures are taken. In regions that have been hit hard by COVID-19, churches and other houses of worship should be included in Phase Two of the New York Forward plan,” he continued
Ihe pastors contend if it is safe to re-open retail establishments, it is safe to re-open churches in that region as well.”
“Under the First Amendment, worship services are not ‘non-essential gatherings.’ The churches we represent are not looking for permission to re-open, but a public partner who will work with them to prioritize the safe and expeditious re-opening of churches and other houses of worship for in-person services. For the safety of our state and the preservation of religious liberty, we ask Gov. Cuomo to partner with those of us in the faith community,” McGuire concluded.