This past Tuesday, Governor Murphy increased the indoor capacity for churches to 50 people or 25% building capacity, whichever is lower. Outdoor worship services are unlimited in size per Governor Murphy because of First Amendment protections.
Clearly, there is no greater commandment than to love God with all our heart and to love our neighbors as ourselves. People of faith should lead by example in their practice of safe social distancing recommendations. I believe local churches have done that, thanks to the leadership of pastors from across the Garden State. However, churches in NJ continue to be held to an unfair higher standard. Essential businesses can have more than 50 employees who come into physical contact with thousands of customers to be indoors for greater lengths of time than a worship service.
Therefore, Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey® has been working extensively with attorney Demetrios Stratis and dozens of churches across our state to file a lawsuit against the Governor to legally deem the church as essential to protect our rights in any future crises that may arise.
You can learn more about this joint effort at these media links.
The overreach of an out-of-touch state government must be addressed. Here’s what we have been up to.
On May 13, FPA of NJ sent a good-faith letter to Governor Murphy signed by 115 pastors to allow churches to operate following the CDC guidelines.
There was no response.
On May 22, we hand delivered a second legal letter with an attached lawsuit to Governor Murphy’s office in Trenton.
There was no response.
As a result, Attorney Stratis filed the lawsuit in federal district court in Trenton on May 29. This complaint uniquely addresses the “essential” nature of the church to retain our constitutional freedoms and core mission during times of emergency. Within five days of the lawsuit being filed, Governor Murphy promised churches would have increased capacity by June 12.
His ruling this week to raise indoor worship gatherings from 25 people to 50 people is disappointing but not surprising. One month after receiving a formal request on behalf of 115 pastors, the church is allowed 50 people indoors! In a sense, there was no response. This decision justifies the lawsuit that was brought on behalf of 29 churches.
The good news is despite this legal challenge, churches are reaching more people than ever through technology, drive in services, and outdoor gatherings with PA systems that often project the gospel into adjacent communities. God uses all things for His glory!
Making NJ better,
Director of Advocacy