To Gov. Gavin Newsom, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody:
It grieves me to be writing concerning events surrounding the unjust killing (some would say murder) of George Floyd in the Twin Cities.
Atrocities of this nature tend to have a global effect beyond their localities. Events such as these have collateral effects. This is one such case.
I am writing to you on behalf of houses of worship, including my own, to do the right, wise, and logical thing in the face of recent developments. What do I mean? Due to circumstances beyond your control, the protest gatherings and riots in California, San Jose, and across the nation have nullified the efficacy of the various COVID-19 countermeasures presently in force. I suppose it is not your fault. It is the result of the situation on the ground. One has to admit that due to circumstances beyond your control, your policies are rendered ineffective and ineffectual.
They are irretrievably compromised.
Neither the legitimate protesters nor the rioters are observing social distancing, nor are they taking countermeasures to assure their safety and the safety of others from infection. The communities to which they will return will be effectively compromised. Regardless of the goodwill and best intentions of governments, the reality is that the proverbial horse is out of the barn (or the birds have left the nest), and you cannot return or recover them. Since it would have been impossible to enforce these restrictions on the protesters and rioters it is no one’s fault. It is merely the situation on the ground (call it prevailing environmental circumstances).
Even before the protests and riots, boredom and societal fatigue have progressively worked against the strict observance of public health policies. Things will only get worse as the summer progresses. I think you have to acknowledge this reality.
Attempting to ratchet these policies back up would be unwise and maybe even impossible. To continue to impose these measures on gatherings of law-abiding worshippers in light of the protests would appear (and would be) selective, discriminatory, and unethical. I realize it’s difficult to hold those crowds to the standard, but now—by default—you will find yourself in the unenviable position of singling out churches like mine (and other houses of worship) when (by default) other mass gatherings are tolerated. That is bad policy indeed, not to mention terrible optics.
California is facing a long hot summer and will need all the help it can get. Communities around the country, the state, Santa Clara County, and San Jose need the services of houses of worship and similar aid groups. We provide essential emotional, psychological, and spiritual grounding to people, many of whom are pent up, or in distress.
On the last Sunday of the last month, May 31, many churches ignored the ban. We did not. Now there seems no longer any credible reason to wait.
Do yourself and your constituents a service. Remove the restrictions on houses of worship and trust us to do what other essential groups have done—govern ourselves responsibly. Don’t make a difficult situation worse—lift the ban by July 1.
Again, circumstances have rendered these restrictions unenforceable, and these crowds have irretrievably compromised and crippled the efficacy of your efforts. We hope to reopen on July 12. We hope to do so with your support and blessing.
Lead Pastor, Hillside Church