1,200 pastors demand Gov. Gavin Newsom reopen California churches by May 31

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- More than 1,200 California pastors are demanding Governor Gavin Newsom allow their places of worship to open by May 31. Even federal officials are now siding with them.

"We are not to be considered non-essential because we are essential, the church is essential especially for times like these," says Bishop Bob Jackson of Acts Full Gospel Church Oakland.

RELATED: DOJ says CA reopening plan discriminates against churches

Bishop Jackson is making a plea to the governor, saying in these tough times churches need to be open and there for their parishioners.

"There is nobody administering to their needs and that is what the church is there for," he said.

The Department of Justice agrees with Jackson and has sent the governor a letter telling him not to discriminate against places of worship.

More than 1,200 California pastors also agree and are leading the charge to open up here in California.

Health experts, though, are strongly cautioning that.

RELATED: Some East Bay churches threaten to reopen despite Gov. Newsom's stay-at-home order

"You bring a lot of people together. You put them in close quarters. You have a lot of proximity, people touching, people you know... I think all of those may bring significant risk of infection," Dr. Carlos del Rio said.

We asked viewers on Facebook if you'd feel comfortable going back to church. You responded with well over 300 comments with close to 90 percent of you saying no. The 11 percent in favor say it's another essential activity.

Bishop Jackson says there will be a church service May 31, but they'll do so in this parking lot with people in their cars until a plan to safely go inside is finished.

"We will not be doing church the way we used to. We're not gonna put people's lives in jeopardy and risk their health with corona," he said.

"We will have singing but no choirs... We're looking at having a praise team which consists of about three people and they will have individual microphones. We're taking every precaution that we can."

Bishop Jackson met with Alameda County officials Wednesday. At six feet apart his 4,000 capacity church will max out at 900, and they'll likely limit that number and add more services.

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