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Spokane Citizens' Religious Rights Proclamation

This petition had 2,396 supporters


Because continuing prohibitions against gathered worship by the Governor of Washington State are unnecessarily and unduly burdensome, damaging to parishioners, to churches, clergy and the greater public, are being continued despite the medical realities in Spokane County and are in clear violation of the First Amendment, we seek to remind the Governor of the limits to the legitimacy of his Gubernatorial Proclamation 20-25 and any further extensions through this citizens' declaration. 

SPOKANE CITIZENS’ PROCLAMATION TO THE GOVERNOR OF WASHINGTON STATE BY CLERGY, CHURCHES & RESIDENTS OF SPOKANE COUNTY, May 2020

Whereas we as followers of our Lord and God Jesus Christ seek to make humble submission to civil authorities our regular practice in attitude, word and deed according to the call of the Holy Scriptures (Matt. 22:21; Romans 13:1-5; I Timothy 2:1-2; Titus 3:1; I Peter 2:13-17); and

Whereas we recognize that this general attitude and practice of submission and obedience to civil authorities is not to be an unquestioned submission and has God-given limits (Exod. 5; Matt. 22:21; Acts 4:18-20, 5:17-42; I Peter 2:13-17; Rev. 13); and

Whereas the Governor of the State of Washington issued on February 29, 2020 an initial State of Emergency for all Washington State counties due to the following concerns over the spread of the corona virus:

·         concern that “many hospitals in Washington State will reach capacity or become overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients within the next several weeks…”

·         concern that “models predict that many hospitals in Washington State will reach capacity or become overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients…”

·         the belief that “hospitalizations for COVID-19 like illnesses are significantly elevated in all adults and a sharply increasing trend in COVID-19 like illness hospitalizations has been observed for the past three (3) weeks…”; and

Whereas the Governor further issued a “Proclamation to impose a Stay Home – Stay Healthy Order throughout Washington State” for all “non-essential” businesses and activities on March 23, 2020 to last until April 6, 2020; and

Whereas the Governor further extended that Stay Home—Stay Healthy Order to May 4th, 2020; and

Whereas the Governor again extended that Stay Home—Stay Healthy Order to May 31, 2020 despite the amazing progress Spokane County has made in dramatically flattening the curve of hospitalizations and deaths; and

Whereas the Governor has not given any hard reopening dates nor even hard statistical measurements for the completion of the four phases of “Washington’s Phased approach—Reopening Business & Modifying Physical Distancing Measures” but instead has continued to maintain an absolute right to single-handedly determine when churches can reconvene; and

Whereas the Governor on May 6th gave any federal, state or local regulatory agency authority to enforce his “Gubernatorial Proclamation 20-25 and any extension thereof…”; and

Whereas that same memorandum criminalizes churchgoers for having anyone outside their immediate household joining them in their own car for said “permitted” drive-in church services, criminalized parking closer than six feet away from other vehicles while having car windows down in a church parking lot, and criminalized clergy from observing or distributing Holy Communion to congregants at worship services [See memorandum at https://www.governor.wa.gov/sites/default/files/Spiritual%20Drive-in%20Services%20Guidance%20Memo.pdf?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery]; and

Whereas the current number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Spokane stands at 9 with a total of roughly 1,200 hospital beds in existence in Spokane; and

Whereas none of the deaths in Spokane County associated with COVID-19 have been anyone under 50 years of age, and less than .005 of a percent of our population have died from COVID-19 (25 out of 450,000-plus area residents), and the number of daily reported cases in Spokane peaked over a month ago on March 28th (at 21/day) and has been in a steady decline since then (averaging 3/day over the last twelve days), and we have had only two (2) new hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients in the last two weeks and none in the past week; and

Whereas businesses deemed “essential” by the Governor currently include “workers supporting cannabis retail”, “tobacco and vapor sellers”, alcohol sellers, abortion clinics, plant sellers, virtually every big-box retailer but not churches which minister to the spiritual, mental, emotional and physical needs of tens of thousands of Spokanites; and  

Whereas it is a proven fact that extended isolation of people is increasing anxiety, depression, hopelessness, loneliness, despair and even suicide; and

Whereas “roughly two-thirds of Americans say they felt nervous, depressed, lonely or hopeless on at least one of their past seven days, [and,] for each of the four emotions, close to 2 in 10 Americans said they felt that way on three or more days” a week (according to the COVID Impact Survey by NORC at the University of Chicago for the Data Foundation); and

Whereas churches perform a vital function with respect to helping thousands of people deal with these negative issues in Spokane; and

Whereas fifty percent (50%) of people responding to a recent Rasmussen national poll said that allowing people to gather in small groups should happen right away and that thirty-five percent (35%) said that churches and other religious gatherings should be opened right away (higher than responses for restaurants, bars, schools and sporting events); and

Whereas the Attorney General of the United States has stated, “the Constitution is not suspended in times of crisis” and that “we must therefore be vigilant to ensure its protections are preserved, at the same time that the public is protected;” and

Whereas the Attorney General of the United States recently issued a memorandum “directing each of our United States Attorneys to also be on the lookout for state and local directives that could be violating the constitutional rights and civil liberties of individual citizens;” and

Whereas the Attorney General of the United States recently stated that “the Department of Justice explained…in guidance to states and localities taking steps to battle the pandemic, even in times of emergency, when reasonable and temporary restrictions are placed on rights, the First Amendment and federal statutory law prohibit discrimination against religious institutions and religious believers;” and

Whereas our Governor’s only concession to religious institutions has been to allow extremely limited, controlled and censored “drive in spiritual services” (which discriminate against poorer, single, non-vehicle owning church participants and churches without large or any parking lots) wrongly assumes that the Governor has the unqualified and unending authority to dictate the types, places and kinds of religious expression that are acceptable despite the First Amendment’s free exercise of religion; and

Whereas the current restrictions placed upon religious entities is overly burdensome, intrusive and restrictive and does not constitute the least-burdensome means of protecting public health; and

Whereas two recent Federal Court cases (On Fire Christian Center, Inc. v. Fischer, Ky., Apr. 11, 2020 and First Baptist Church v. Kelly, Kan. Apr. 18, 2020) both recognized that the government may not prohibit churches from hosting in-person worship services on equal terms with other businesses and organizations that are permitted to remain open provided certain guidelines are practiced; and

Whereas both the society as a whole and religious institutions in particular currently possess sufficient knowledge of proper health practices for the successful mitigation of the uncontrolled spread and contraction of the Coronavirus and whereas our religious communities have a far stronger and more compelling interest in protecting the health and welfare of all our congregants of all ages,

Now therefore, we, the undersigned leaders of Spokane County, call upon the Governor of the State of Washington to end his arbitrary judgment of which businesses and organizations are “essential” vs. “not essential” in the State during this crisis.  We further call upon the Governor to end his unduly burdensome, restrictive, and damaging infringements upon churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, other places of religious practice and their participants’ religious liberties, restrictions that are not currently being imposed on thousands of businesses operating in buildings where hundreds of people congregate at a time, where little to no social distancing is enforced in parking lots or stores and where transactions far less important to the health and welfare of customers are taking place by the hundreds every hour. 

We the undersigned declare spiritual ministry, worship, participation in religious sacraments, in corporate prayer, in fellowship and in the free expression of religious convictions are and or a right ought to be considered “essential activities” and thus should not nor shall be subject to any further, indefinite or prolonged suspension. 



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