A Maryland pastor and physician, who was recently issued a citation by a local health official threatening a fine, jail time and the shutting down of his church for answering his door without a mask, is now speaking out.
“The document that they handed me suggested that if we weren’t in compliance, first of all, they would shut us down completely and that I could be fined $5,000 and imprisoned for one year,” the Rev. Dr. Dennis Jackman, who leads the Community United Methodist Church in Pasadena, told WCBM.
“I just can’t believe this. I truly believe the power of the church to help to facilitate the American Revolution and to have churches shut down? The flip side is we have people out there that are hurting dramatically that need love and care. People that are deeply depressed and what we’ve done is isolated people and said we can’t have contact with people.”
The incident which has attracted national attention was first made public by The American Constitutional Rights Union, which is dedicated to protecting the civil rights of all Americans by publicly advancing a constitutional understanding of their essential rights and freedoms.
Jackman told the organization that the health official came to the door of the church on a recent weekday when he was alone at the church building.
“I was in my office alone, without a mask on, and heard someone at the locked door of the church. I was not expecting anyone, so I went to see who was trying to get in the church. Immediately after answering the door, I went to my desk and put on my mask, but the health official seemed intent on finding something worthy of a citation,” Dr. Jackman said.
He told WCBM that the health official said he was directed to the church after they received an anonymous complaint that “there might be somebody here without a mask on.”
ACRU President Lori Roman said she was concerned about the call that triggered the incident and blamed it on the state government encouraging neighbors to “snitch” on each other through COVID-19 violations hotlines.
“The other twist on this is that the government is encouraging people to snitch on their neighbors. We saw a twist on this, a worshiper from Rev. Jackman’s church called and snitched to us about the health official giving the citation to their pastor,” Roman said.
“Pastors need to band together” to fight back against these abuses, she said, noting that they can also call her organization for help.
“Pastor Jackman wasn’t doing anything wrong. He was alone in his church, there were no services going on when a health department official showed up at a locked door, tried to get in. Pastor Jackman jumped up to try to see who was getting in his church and his citation was simply for showing up at the door to trying to check on who was getting in the church with no mask on. That’s outrageous and it’s time to fight back,” she said.
The ACRU further noted their appreciation for recent comments by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, warning that the COVID pandemic “resulted in previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty” and that religious liberty is “in danger of becoming a second-class right.”
A week ago the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Catholic diocese and an Orthodox Jewish group, temporarily blocking New York’s COVID-19 restrictions on houses of worship.
“Members of this Court are not public health experts, and we should respect the judgment of those with special expertise and responsibility in this area. But even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten," the high court said in its 5-4 ruling. "The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty.”