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Cornerstone Church Will Hold Indoor Services Despite Newsom’s Order

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Pastor Jim Franklin of Fresno’s Cornerstone Church plans to hold indoor services Sunday at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.

“We will have masks on to protect those around us, but nothing’s going to stop us from worshiping God,” said Franklin on the church’s social media pages. “Cornerstone Church will be conducting worship services, because it is the right thing. It is the proper thing. It is the necessary thing to do. Yes, church is critical.”

Image of Pastor Jim Franklin of Cornerstone Church in Fresno, California

“Cornerstone Church will be conducting worship services, because it is the right thing. It is the proper thing. It is the necessary thing to do. Yes, church is critical.”Pastor Jim Franklin, Cornerstone Church

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday widened the list of businesses that must shut down indoor operations in counties on the state’s COVID-19 monitoring list, which includes Fresno and other Valley counties.

Businesses affected include fitness centers, churches, personal care services, hair salons and barbershops, malls and “offices for non-critical sectors,” the governor said.

Reasons for Staying Open

Franklin explained the reasons and strategies for his plan to keep the congregation meeting indoors:

  • The welfare of the congregants
  • The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few (who have come down with COVID-19 in Fresno County)
  • The Constitution grants the right to worship

“If people have the right to protest, why do they not have the right to gather together and worship?”Franklin asks rhetorically.

Fresno City Councilmember Garry Bredefeld says he’ll attend Cornerstone Church this weekend as a show of support.

“Newsom has no data to back up his edict to arbitrarily close churches, restaurants, salons, and other businesses,” said Bredefelt in a statement to GV Wire℠. “If masks are so effective, why didn’t he order criminals in prison to wear masks and not release them? The fact is the silent majority can no longer be silent.”

Portrait of Garry Bredefeld

“Newsom has no data to back up his edict to arbitrarily close churches, restaurants, salons, and other businesses. If masks are so effective, why didn’t he order criminals in prison to wear masks and not release them? The fact is the silent majority can no longer be silent.”Fresno City Councilmember Garry Bredefeld

Outdoor Worship

Some churches have opted to hold services outside in parking lots or grass fields to avoid the indoor issue altogether.

Franklin doesn’t see that as an option in Fresno and says it’s discriminatory because some churches don’t have the ability to hold services outdoors.

“It’s 100 plus degrees out there right now, we’re in the dead heat of summer,” says Franklin. “(Some churches) don’t have a park area; they don’t have a plaza area; they don’t have a parking lot area to be able to do that.”

Mental Health Needs

Health officials worry the longer the health crisis continues, the greater toll that it may take on the mental health of the people of Central California. Franklin says that churches are best positioned to provide support for people in a time of crisis.

“There’s no one that could deny from the experience and from the statistics that those who attend church services have more peace within their life more happiness in their life,” said Franklin.  “They find a place at church to be able to get answers for that right now. When people are looking for hope, church is where they can find hope.”

The Fresno County Health Department doesn’t disagree with Franklin about the issues of mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic and the role the churches can play. Interim health officer Dr. Rais Vohra addressed this and the church opening during a zoom call with reporters Wednesday afternoon.

“We’re continuing to dialogue with faith-based organizations, and we’re going to be talking exactly about this (indoor services) with them on Thursday,” said Vohra. “But the state order saying what it does, that’s going to still hold as the mandate we need to abide by here in the county.”

Vohra says people are experiencing a great deal of anxiety and sadness during some of the restrictions related to the pandemic. He believes that moving things online or outdoors is the best way to move forward at this time.

Federal Lawsuit

In May, Cornerstone Church church joined a lawsuit in California’s Eastern District Federal Court against the county of Fresno health director, the state of California health director, and the governor of California. Cornerstone Church will be represented by Advocates for Faith & Freedom, Tyler & Bursch, and The National Center for Law and Policy.

GV Wire℠ spoke with Pastor Franklin by phone Wednesday and inquired about the status of the lawsuit. “It’s still in process, it’s got a long way to go,” he said.

In May, a federal judge in Sacramento ruled that Newsom had the right to ban church assemblies in the interest of public health during the coronavirus outbreak.