Pastor Brian Gibson said Monday he is going to open the doors to all four of his churches on Sunday, and urged other houses of worship to join him in a nationwide show of religious force in defiance of coronavirus shutdown orders.
Mr. Gibson, who runs HIS Church with locations in Texas and Kentucky, had his attempt to hold drive-in services on Easter Sunday shut down. He now says he’s had enough of the shutdown orders.
“It’s a deliberate slap in the face to religious freedom, that a Costco or Walmart can have hundreds of people inside their building at any one time, but places of worship and people of faith can’t be trusted to implement the same safety procedures in their own buildings,” he said.
He’s labeled his effort “Peaceably Gather Sunday,” saying the right to religious liberty is facing a use-it-or-lose-it moment.
“Every Sunday that we aren’t in church, we lose more freedom,” he said.
First Liberty Institute has vowed to defend Mr. Gibson should he face any blowback.
Kentucky has been particularly trying for faith leaders, with Gov. Andy Beshear’s ban on in-person services.
U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove halted the governor’s order late Friday.
“If social distancing is good enough for Home Depot and Kroger, it is good enough for in-person religious services which, unlike the foregoing, benefit from constitutional protection,” the judge wrote. “The Constitution will endure. It would be easy to put it on a shelf in times like this, to be pulled down and dusted off when more convenient. But that is not our tradition. Its enduring quality requires that it be respected even when it is hard.”