OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Today religious leaders from across California gathered in Oakland to plead with the Governor to allow them to reopen their churches as part of his "Phase 2" plan to get the state going. Some of them went as far as saying they would defy the governor's stay-at-home order if things don't change by the last day of this month.
Pastor Jim Domen of Churches United in Southern California summed up the other pastor's feelings when he said, "the church is essential. The people of god are essential." That's a reference to Governor Gavin Newsom banning church services as nonessential during the coronavirus pandemic.
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About 40 Clergymen and women from all over the state held a news conference in the parking lot of Oakland's Acts Full Gospel Church to argue that the Governor's order banning church services is not only government overreach, it also puts people's mental health at risk.
"You get suicide, you get depression you get mental problems," said Bishop Bob Jackson of Acts Full Gospel Church.
One by one, the religious leaders stepped up to the mic to ask why grocery stores could be open but houses of worship could not.
"Can't we reopen under the same conditions that the stores and supermarkets, marijuana clinics and tattoo parlors are opening under?" asked Bishop Michael Barber of the Diocese of Oakland.
Both Bishop Barber - whose diocese covers 85 churches in Alameda and Contra Costa County, and Bishop Jackson - whose Acts Full Gospel Church holds 4,000 parishioners say they already have protocols in place, including masks, seating to keep parishioners 6 feet apart, and cleaning and disinfecting of pews after every service.
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Some of these churches say they are ready to reopen May 31, regardless of what the Governor says and to that end they all ready have legal representation.
"Our goal is to defend the first amendment right to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ," said Riverside County Attorney Robert Tyler who says he's got an army of lawyers ready to defend any church leaders who defy the governor's order and risk arrest.
Bishop Jackson says he's willing to be arrested for the cause.
"I'm willing because I do believe we have a right to do it," he said.
The clergyman also say they chose May 31 as their day of action because it is Pentacost Sunday - the day the Christian Church was born 2,000 years ago.
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