The first five books of the Bible, often referred to as the Pentateuch, Torah or the law, established the rituals, practices and religious laws that ancient Jews were required to follow. The laws and instructions written there prescribed how the temple must be maintained and cleaned, how the priests should function and a myriad of other practices in Israel's religious life.
Many of those laws and instructions continue to form the basis of modern Christian and Jewish religious practices.
But California Gov. Gavin Newsom has decided that God's Word is not enough to govern churches and synagogues. Instead, Gov. Newsom has moved from appointing himself king, to now declaring himself to be godlike in his ability to dictate religious practices.
On July 6, in the 14-page California Public Health Order entitled "COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Places of Worship and Providers of Religious Services and Cultural Ceremonies," Newsom demands that places of worship replace their own religious practices with his edicts.
The long list of dictates for places of worship includes:
—The removal of Bibles and pamphlets.
—The removal or disuse of sacred fonts, baptismals and vessels.
—Instructions on how to wash religious garments.
—Directions on how ministers must wash and prepare themselves.
—The required reconfiguration of podiums, lecterns, sanctuaries and even church parking lots.
—How collection plates must be used, if allowed at all.
—How to open and close church doors.
—How to greet guests and each other.
—Elimination of singing and chanting.
—And much more.
Gov. Newsom even decrees how Holy Communion must now be handled.
Newsom's illegal and unconstitutional orders, in effect, rewrite and replace large portions of the Bible! Newsom apparently thinks he can serve the role of both king and priest.
What is perhaps most telling about Gavin Newsom's orders is that they are expressly directed against religious worship.
His July 6 order clearly states, "this guidance is not intended for ... other activities that places of worship may provide." The directive is only meant to restrict religious worship.
In other words, a church building can serve as a homeless shelter, a soup kitchen or provide counsel on finding a job or applying for unemployment—all with no numerical restrictions—but as soon as the activity becomes religious worship, Newsom's orders slam the door.
If the ordering of no singing and micromanaging every aspect of worship were not bad enough, on July 13, Newsom banned all worship for 80% of the state's population, even in private homes!
Again, nonreligious activity is permitted in churches, but the moment a Bible is opened or preaching and worship begin in that same facility engaging the very same people, that church and its leaders are in violation of Newsom's orders and face criminal prosecution, $1,000-a-day fines and even imprisonment.
Newsom initially closed churches, calling them "nonessential." Then he said they could have no more than 100 people—no matter the size of the sanctuary. Then he banned singing and chanting and ordered the details of worship. Then, he banned all worship, even in private homes for Bible study and fellowship.
No one can rewrite the Bible. And no one can change God's directives for our worship and our lives.
That is why we are fighting in federal court on behalf of Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministry that has 162 churches in California.
As a legal ministry defending our unalienable right to religious freedom, we know that no government figure—not even California king and high priest Gavin Newsom—can dictate religious practices to the church.
I have said this repeatedly for years, and never more frequently than during the last six months: The church cannot be rendered to Caesar, and it cannot be ordered or directed by Caesar. The church never was subject to Casear—or to California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
This article originally appeared at lc.org.
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