I found Pastor PJ Davis's column ("Time to Gather") in the May 22, 2020 edition of the Press Banner somewhat disconcerting and misleading. While I understand the frustration that Pastor Davis and his congregation must be feeling, Pastor Davis seems to imply churches are being unfairly discriminated against, and I see no evidence of that. In fact, this issue has already been litigated, and multiple judges have disagreed with Pastor Davis's assessment. US District Judge Jesus G. Bernal wrote,
“An in-person religious gathering is not analogous to picking up groceries, food or medicine, where people enter a building quickly, do not engage directly with others except at points of sale, and leave once the task is complete. Instead, it is more analogous to attending school or a concert — activities where people sit together in an enclosed space to share a communal experience.”
This is why churches are rightly grouped into Stage 3 along with activities that have similar kinds of close contact and/or larger groups: salons, gyms, and entertainment venues. It is not a value judgment of churches but a categorization according to risk.
If churches can find a way to hold services in a way that satisfies the safety concerns of public health officials, I am confident our civic leaders will embrace those proposals. But that is the criteria that they must meet; anything short of that endangers the rest of us. Religious freedoms are a proud American tradition, but like all freedoms they are not absolute. Just as freedom of speech does not extend to the right to yell "fire!" in a crowded theater, religious freedoms do not extend to endangering other people's lives. Unless this coronavirus starts to discriminate based on faith, churches can and must abide by the same scientifically grounded safety protocols we are holding the rest of our public institutions to.
Nicholas Murphy, Scotts Valley
Pastor Davis says that he, and the other church leaders who signed the letter to Governor Newsom and other leaders, “have no desire to agitate, nor to compete with the rightful duties of our governing authorities”. Unfortunately, this is exactly what he’s doing. When he states that “growing clarity about the COVID-19 pandemic suggests that current SIP restrictions no longer represents the best public policy” he is directly countering public health professionals like California public health director, Sonia Y. Angell, and her Santa Cruz county counterpart Mimi Hall--as well as national figures like Doctors Fauci and Blix who advocate regional approach.
Saying that flattening the curve has worked so therefore we can stop is like saying the parachute has slowed my fall enough that I’m feeling pretty good about cutting myself loose from it. There is an air of persecution in Pastor Davis’ piece that is unfounded.
Churches were not excluded from phase two because they’re being singled out by God-less bureaucrats, they were excluded because they’ve been a source of many COVID-19 clusters around the country. Gathering a group of people inside, especially when they do droplet-propelling things like sing, has proved to be a fertile breeding ground for the virus. The decision to continue to restrict church services is based on data arrived at by health professionals and Government officials whose concern is limiting the spread of the virus. We all have things we did pre-pandemic that we’d like to get back to, including for far too many of us, getting back to work in order to feed and shelter our families, but the health of our entire community has to take precedent.
Matt Ward, Scotts Valley Ca.
Covid-19 fears dishonor essential employees! I have lived in my house in Scotts Valley for over 30 years and have had a housemate for at least half that time. I've charged her about half the going rate because her income hovers around minimum wage and not full-time. She is a good, sweet, honest and hard-working person. Now I am selling my house, needing to downsize for physical and age reasons. My housemate has to be out by the end of June. She was given notice in early March and has been searching for shared housing since.
She's contacted a number of places and has been refused because she works at an "essential business" and the renters are scared she might bring in the virus!! She is required to go to work or lose her job!! This is NOT okay!! How is she to find a place to live If people can refuse her rent opportunities because she's an ESSENTIAL EMPLOYEE and they're scared??!!! Isn't this discrimination?!! So I guess we are all okay going to the markets and other places where essential employees have to work and daily be exposed to everyone and deal with all of us...but we are not okay with helping THEM??!!!!!
NOT OKAY!!!! Discrimination and should be held accountable!!! And she still needs a place to live. Not her car. Not a tent. A real home!!
Suzy Hunt, Scotts Valley