April 3, 2020: Texas pastors, Christians arrested, evangelicals respond to de Blasio's threat to shut down churches

Friday, April 3, 2020:

Here are the latest headlines, brought to you by The Christian Post.

— Pastors sue to stop Texas judge's stay-at-home order banning church 

Texas pastors are suing Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo over a stay-at-home order they say violates their religious freedom right to hold church services. Houston attorney Jared Woodfill filed a petition at the Texas Supreme Court Monday on behalf of three local pastors and conservative activist Steve Hotze, the CEO of Conservative Republicans of Texas.

The petition seeks to stop the judge’s order enacted last month that instructs county residents to stay in their homes except for essential travel to the grocery store and when commuting to work for essential employees. The order required all nonessential businesses to close, including churches. 

Two days after the lawsuit was filed, Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a joint guidance defining religious services as “essential services” under an executive order signed by Abbott calling on Texans to obey social distancing guidelines.

India: Christians arrested for 'forcible conversion' while providing aid to poor

A pastor and 30 adults from Viluppuram Church of South India were serving food to the poor when a member of a Hindu extremist group filed a police complaint against them. The complaint led to their arrest on false charges of “forcible conversion.”

During their arrest the pastor said he and others faced threats and abuse at the hands of police. His church had been providing aid to the poor for three years, including grain, clothing, and flashlights.

— Maryland outlines what state deems as acceptable religious services 

Officials in Maryland released a guidance Wednesday detailing what the state constitutes as acceptable religious gatherings during a statewide stay-at-home order issued by Governor Larry Hogan.

Acceptable gatherings included Drive-In Religious Services in which passengers remain in their vehicle at all times for outdoor services; Limited In-Person Services of no more than 10 people inside the building at one time with no physical contact and four hours in-between services to allow ample time for cleaning; and lastly, Minimal Operations at Religious Facilities so staff can conduct minimal church operations as long as regulations regarding social distancing are followed.

— Health officials urge Ohio megachurch to stop holding worship gatherings

Health officials in Ohio are urging Solid Rock Church of Lebanon to stop holding in-person worship services due to concerns that large gatherings could spread the COVID-19 virus.

The Butler County Public Health District sent a letter to the church last Friday, noting that it had received multiple complaints from the public about the worship services.

In response, church leaders said members were not being forced to attend Sunday services, adding that religious gatherings are exempt from the state’s stay-at-home order that runs through May 1.

— Evangelicals slam NYC's threat to 'permanently' close churches 

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s threat that churches and synagogues will be “permanently” closed if they refuse to obey a stay-at-home order banning large gatherings in light of the coronavirus pandemic has drawn the ire of national Christian leaders. 

At a March 27 press briefing, de Blasio singled out Christian and Jewish congregations and warned that agents would shut down their houses of worship if they held in-person services. And if congregations refuse to disperse, the city would "take additional action up to the point of fines and potentially closing the building permanently.”

Tony Perkins, the chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and president of the Family Research Council, criticized de Blasio’s comments on Twitter, saying, “This type of religious hostility is what fuels non-compliance because it reveals a motive beyond public safety.”

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