Seventy pastors assembled at Old Time Baptist Church in Hamburg, New York on Tuesday to warn Gov. Andrew Cuomo that they plan to civilly disobey his orders and open their parishes on Sunday. President Trump announced on Friday that he was deeming churches as "essential" services during the coronavirus pandemic, yet in states like New York, religious services are still limited to no more than 10 congregants at a time.
Pastor Tim Young of Heritage Baptist Church shared his observation of Cuomo's order, which allows large retail stores to remain open, but not houses of worship.
"Liquor stores are an essential, tattoo shops are an essential, abortion clinics are an essential, big box stores are an essential, ice cream stores are an essential, but not churches," he noted. "It's funny if we had church in a produce aisle in Walmart, we'd be safe."
"The First Amendment, of course, is 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,'" Young added. "When they're telling us we can livestream and that's sufficient they're telling us how to worship our God."
As for the argument that the above stores can open because they're grab and go, Pastor Young had an answer for that too.
"Everything we have in our church is takeout," he countered. "We want the people to take it out with them and assimilate it into their lives so you got to be kidding. They need us, there's no doubt."
The religious leaders were joined by state lawmaker David DiPietro, who recently supported a measure that would limit Gov. Cuomo's emergency powers.
"Whatever your creed, it does not matter, our communities, our traditions and our religions are central to our way of life," he said.
The pastors don't believe they're breaking the law because, as they explain,
"No offense to our New York officials, but I think they're way out of their league in what they're doing, and in every state, there are lawsuits that are starting to erupt because of these things," Pastor Lou Guadagno of Old Time Baptist Church told WBEN.
Other attendees at Tuesday's rally came with signs that displayed messages such as, "Faith in Jesus Not Fear of a Virus," and "What Happened to the First Amendment."
Yet, other pastors like Rev. Darius Pridgen plan to adhere to the governor's guidelines. As Pridgen recently explained to WBEN, only the first 10 callers for True Bethel Baptist Church will be permitted to attend church in person at their services, while the remaining congregants will be placed on a waiting list, and in the meantime they can watch via livestream.