Several California based Christian legal organizations say Governor Newsom’s new ban on church singing isn’t enforceable. The new “guideline” document released July 1, says social distancing isn’t going to protect congregants from COVID-19 in church services if they still sing or chant.
“Places of worship must therefore, discontinue singing and chanting activities,” states the “Places of Worship” guidance document released by Newsom’s Department of Public Health and the Division of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
“Arbitrary, capricious, and tyrannical,” that’s what attorney and president of Advocates for Faith & Freedom Robert Tyler called Newsom’s singing ban. “Let me be clear, the state does not have the jurisdiction to ban houses of worship from singing praises to God,” Tyler wrote in a leader to pastors and Christian leaders over the weekend. “Chanting and shouting are allowed at mass protests, but singing or chanting in church with a mask and social distancing is forbidden. While California continues to allow abortion clinics, liquor stores, and marijuana dispensaries to freely operate, they simultaneously ban singing praise and worship to honor God.”
Dean Broyles, president of the National Center for Law and Policy, had similar sentiments.
“So, mask-less BLM protests and Antifa riots (and looting) where people are definitely not social distancing and are chanting and shouting are permitted, while singing or chanting in church with a mask and social distancing are forbidden. Am I missing something here?” Broyles asked. “Pastors and churches need to know that the state does not have the jurisdiction to mandate to the church how it worships God. This is just another discriminatory and hypocritical edict that Governor Newsom does not have the authority to issue or enforce. Pastors must be guided by the scriptures and their conscience.”
Although the guideline document says churches “must” stop singing, Pacific Justice Institute Chief Counsel Kevin Snider believes Newsom’s church instructions are presented as OSHA workplace guidance and therefore, only provide strong admonition to discontinue singing and chanting, not a mandate to stop. And since OSHA’s jurisdiction is limited to the workplace, the recommendations only apply to church employees. “Despite the language set forth in the OSHA Guidance, OSHA has no legal authority over volunteers or congregants who attend services,” he wrote in a letter to pastors.
“The OSHA Guidance is just that – guidance.”