Local Pastor Says He Wants Religious Institutions to Join Some Businesses in Reopening

The state's reopening plan does not allow for in-person religious services until Phase 3

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A Clairemont pastor says he wants places of worship to be included alongside businesses that are given the green light to reopen so people can continue to practice their faith. However, reopening churches has not yet been approved since it is part of Phase 3 of California’s reopening plan.

“I can only speak for myself, but we’re trying to follow our faith in a serious way and part of that is being respectful of other people,” Pastor Barry Day of Canyon View Church of Christ Minister told NBC 7. “And we do take that seriously.”

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Gov. Gavin Newsom has faced backlash for keeping churches closed amid the pandemic, and even the Department of Justice sent his office a letter warning that there may be a civil rights issue in the way he is handling the reopening of places of worship.

Newsom’s office confirmed to NBC 7 that they received the DOJ’s letter, but did not offer any additional comment. The DOJ said that regardless of a pandemic, leaders cannot treat religious institutions any differently.

Allowing in-person religious services, though, is part of Phase 3 of the state’s reopening metric, which focuses on “creating opportunities for higher risk sectors to adapt and re-open.” Such higher-risk sectors include gyms, hair and nail salons, movie theaters and sport venues without live audiences.

In the meantime, Pastor Day and his church have been providing an array of services that follows public health orders. For weeks, the church has hosted services via a livestream and posted pre-recorded Sunday service in addition to having a drive-in mass. However, Day and other religious leaders still wonder when they will be allowed to have in-person services.

“I guess what we’re wanting is answers,” Day said. “I look every day and I watch the news and just nothing is really said.”

He said he wants state leaders to consider looping places of worship in with Phase 2 of Newsom’s reopening plan.

“Other businesses are coming back online but it never talks about this substantial and important part of people’s lives,” Day said. “We want to be a part of that, that the businesses are getting as well. Good for them, but we want to be included.”

It is unclear when the state will allow counties to decide when to move forward with Phase 3.

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