Senator Doherty Urges the Church to Be Deemed Essential

April 23

Senator Mike Doherty (R) of District 23 that includes parts of Hunterdon, Somerset and Warren counties, has been vocal in his support to allow churches to assemble if they follow safe and reasonable precautions such as outdoor services, social distancing guidelines and limitations of the size of gatherings. He has initiated a petition on the website to encourage Governor Murphy to deem churches as essential operations.

“When many of us could be at Sunday services today replenishing a much-needed sense of hope in these uncertain times, we instead remain separated in our homes from the communities of faith that sustain us in good times and bad,” Doherty said in a release on Sunday. “Our new online petition will allow people of faith to share with Gov. Murphy their belief that religion is an essential service and constitutionally protected right that should be allowed to resume immediately.”

To add your name to Senator Mike Doherty’s petition, click here!

Governor Murphy stated that businesses such as liquor stores can operate because according to him, there would be “unintended mental health and addiction consequences” if they were closed. Recently, I asked to you sign a letter to the NJ Commissioner of Health, Judith M. Persichilli requesting her office enforce social distancing guidelines at abortion clinics. Why are liquor stores and abortion centers considered crucial to the health of New Jerseyans, but church doors are shuttered? I know many churches across our state that are operating drive thru food pantries but are unsure if they will face legal charges if they gather these same cars for a drive-in worship service.

According to the 10th Amendment, police power belongs to the states to establish and enforce laws protecting the welfare, safety, and health of the public. This is seen most clearly in sanitary laws for restaurants and state licensing for many careers. Therefore, the governor has the power to prohibit rights on a temporary basis in times of war or disaster. However, these rare restraints are legal if they further a clear government interest – such as saving lives, are narrowly tailored to the incident at hand – coronavirus, and are the least restrictive means possible.

As Christians, we are commanded to love God with all our heart and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We dare not put in jeopardy the health of another, especially the most vulnerable and at-risk people within our communities. As our state safely follows President Trump’s three phase gated criteria for reopening, we encourage Governor Murphy to name churches and all houses of worship as “essential”.

Making NJ better for families,

Shawn Hyland
Director of Advocacy