The Maryland pastor who made national news when he took to the pulpit and publicly tore up a cease-and-desist letter issued to him by the local government for having in-person services as he proclaimed, “Newsflash: Pharoah doesn’t get to dictate to God’s people how they worship their God!” has issued a fiery response to Baltimore County Health Department’s insistence that they pay a large fine for violating stay-at-home orders.
Calvary Baptist Church in Dundalk, MD, led by pastor Stacey Shifletts has been in a dispute with Baltimore county for several weeks over the church not shutting down during the pandemic. The church had reopened their church for services before they were officially allowed to do so by the government, as per their biblical convictions and standing behind the first amendment of the US Constitution.
As a result of their convictions, the church received the cease-and-desist letter for their May 17th service a few weeks later, informing that the Baltimore County Department of Permits was fining the church $500 for having “unsafe structures” due to having more than 10 people in their building, DESPITE HAVING a 600-seat auditorium and despite by being given the go-ahead by Governor Lary Hogan to resume at 50% capacity.
“What’s really disturbing is that our church was the safest place that I have been to during this entire coronavirus shutdown,” said Pastor Shifletts. “We’d listed our policies and procedures when we reopened on our church website, we informed the authorities of that. We invited them to come, to see for themselves, no one did. No one came and inspected. How you can be fined for an inspection that was never conducted is beyond me.”
The church recounted other policies they had in place to keep the place safe – policies few other places were performing. A few policies in place include having ushers opening the doors with gloves and masks so they would not have to be touched, asking congregants to wear masks, and limiting the washrooms to only two people and cleaning them after each use.
They further covered water fountains with plastic, removed the psalmbooks from the racks, didn’t pass offering plates, took the temperature of each congregant as they entered the building, had hand sanitizer stationed through, shut down Sunday school, children’s ministries, choir practice, and the nursery. They had the building cleaned after every single service according to CDC guidelines and sanitized multiple times a week, and yet after all that, they still received a fine for having “unsafe structures.”
“This is bogus. We will not stand for this and we will not go along with this. We will contest this. This is unfair. This is unjust. It’s is an abuse of power, it’s governmental overreach, we’re being bullied and I don’t like it.”
Pastor Shiflett says that the church has no intention to pay the fine and plans to challenge it to the highest levels. For any Maryland residents (and perhaps even if you are not), feel free to send a respectful, kind, Christlike letter to the following email address, encouraging them to rescind the fine.
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