Where are they Now? Updates on 3 Churches that Defied Stay-at-home Orders

The Church in Canada. We wrote about the Church of God in Canada HERE. The church was having a drive- in-service which was prohibited by the government, as no more than 5 people are allowed to “gather.” The police showed up and filmed the services and threatened arrest and fines, but they appeared to have backed down. They said that while they have reasonable and probable grounds to lay charges for violating the emergency order, they are choosing to “educate instead” after consulting with the local crown attorney, saying “this is a measured and least intrusive approach in dealing with this community issue.” Their hope was that if they don’t charge the church for the violations, they hoped the avoidance of fines and jail for those services would incentivize them not to gather for future services. If charged under the province’s emergency orders, there are fines of $750 to $100,000 and up to a year in jail.

Pastor Henry Hildebrandt waves good-bye to parishioners following May 10 Service. Photo by Derek Ruttan

It did not work. They met again for their fifth straight Sunday, as police and journalists looked on. The police have given the information on the drive-in services to the Crown attorney’s office and it’s up to them if charges will be laid. The service continues to garner citizen complaints but Pastor Henry Hildebrandt says he had no intention on stopping.

The Church in Illinois. We wrote about the churches in Illinois HERE. Six Romanian Churches in IL, whose pastors and many congregants lived under communist regimes and fled, announced their intent to openly defy Illinois Governor J.B Pritzker’s stay-at-home orders by issuing a declaration that were are opening their churches for in-person services on May 10, no matter the consequences. In Illinois, it’s against the order to have a church service of more than 10 people, and so this was a direct violation of that decree.

The Churches had services as promised. This after they also filed a federal lawsuit against Pritzker for his unconstitutional executive orders against churches. The Church took extraordinary measures to ensure the church was clean and ready to accept congregants. They sanitized the church using a professional company and provided all manner of PPE, such as masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer, as well as marking off where to sit.

In a statement by Pastor Cristian Ionescu, the senior pastor of Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church, he said “Last Sunday, Elim Church has provided a model for other churches but also for the government officials to look at and consider it! They look to the medical professionals and economists for guidance on how to reopen the economy? It’s time to consult with us on how to reopen church public services, not sending down absurd decrees that show ignorance and indifference! I for one will not accept to be placed in the same category with stadiums, cinemas, entertainment venues and bars! We’re not providing entertainment, we’re providing vital services! And please, have the decency to put the word “churches” into your recovery schemes, don’t bunch us into the “public gatherings.” If the food store is essential for providing food for the physical body, spiritual food is at least as important; buying building materials and home goods also has a spiritual dimension, for the church is a spiritual construction that needs to be built and maintained! The politicians need to stop pretending they care about our people more than we do!”

The Church in Kentucky. We wrote about Maryville Baptist Church HERE. They have been a thorn in the side of Governor Andy Beshear for a few weeks now. They were one of seven churches in the state to remain open for drive-in services. They were the ones where someone dumped nails all across the parking lot before their easter service, and the police showed up and wrote down licence plates and filmed the congregants, with intent to levy fines for disobeying the gov’t orders. Along with recording all their plates, they gave the vehicle occupants formal notices ordering them to a mandatory 14-day quarantine after they left the service, due to violating the state’s emergency order not to mass gather. Violating the state of emergency act in Kentucky is a Class A misdemeanor and is punishable by 90 days to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $500. Despite the pressure, the Church never stopped meeting week after week.

Just a few days ago, Liberty Counsel won an injunction from a Kentucky federal District Court granting its request for in-person church services on behalf of Maryville Baptist Church and its pastor, Dr. Jack Roberts. This effectively blocks the governor from further enforcement of his tyrannical, unconstitutional and unfairly encroachment upon this church.

According to Liberty Counsel, the Court said: “The Governor has offered no good reason for refusing to trust the congregants who promise to use care in worship in just the same way it trusts accountants, lawyers, and laundromat workers to do the same. Come to think of it, aren’t the two groups of people often the same people – going to work on one day and going to church on another? How can the same person be trusted to comply with social distancing and other health guidelines in secular settings but not be trusted to do the same in religious settings? The distinction defies explanation, or at least the Governor has not provided one.

Governor Beshear can’t assume the worst when people go to worship but assume the best when people go to work or go about the rest of their daily lives in permitted social settings.

How are in-person meetings with social distancing any different from in-person church services with social distancing? Permitting one but not the other hardly counts as no-more-than-necessary lawmaking.

Assuming all of the same precautions are taken, why is it safe to wait in a car for a liquor store to open but dangerous to wait in a car to hear morning prayers? Why can someone safely walk down a grocery store aisle but not a pew? And why can someone safely interact with a brave deliverywoman but not with a stoic minister? The Commonwealth has no good answers. While the law may take periodic naps during a pandemic, we will not let it sleep through one.” 

The church, as a result, has been meeting in-in person inside the church, and video of the service shows that the church is choosing not to abide by social distancing measures.