Standing up for what you believe in can be tough, especially when the state government is bearing down on you.
In Lena, Illinois, pastor Stephen Cassell of Beloved Church stood up for what he believes in by reopening his church doors on May 3.
Cassell made the decision to reopen despite Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order.
The Illinois governor has since come forward and said that churches of more than 50 members may not be allowed to gather for over a year.
Cassell explained to The Western Journal that he felt the order was “a massive violation of the First Amendment.”
“We received a cease and desist order from the local health department on the 31st of March with the threats of up to four years of jail and thousands and thousands of dollars in fines,” Cassell said.
“It took us about four weeks to get all of our legal wranglings in order, in order for us to open up with protection and safety.”
But it’s not as though Cassell and Beloved Church were going to forego any safety precautions. The pastor explained that the church is doing what it can to protect congregants from spreading the disease.
Beloved Church is requiring all members of the congregation to wear masks and maintain safe social distancing while on the premises.
Cassell stressed that his church was at the very least as safe as “the 300 people standing in line at the Walmart.”
Illinois, like many of the other states issuing stay-at-home orders, has chosen certain “essential” businesses that get to stay open. Cassell took issue with that notion.
“[The order] stands in stark contrast to our founding fathers because, if you were to ask them, the essential businesses were the church, the press and the peaceable assembly of the people.”
Many critics of Cassell and other pastors opening their churches against government orders cite Romans 13, a chapter in the Bible that discusses submitting to governmental authority.
Cassell took those criticisms head-on and explained how they come from a misreading of the chapter.
“Romans 13 talks about jurisdiction and the jurisdiction of righteous government. Some of the language that’s being used in Romans 13 is that they are there to protect moral and biblical rights and so there is no moral or biblical right that I should follow that violates Hebrews 10:25, which says that you are not to forsake the assembly or yourselves together,” the Beloved Church pastor told The Western Journal.
“When they stand in contrast like they do, then we have an actual moral obligation to, in a legal way which is exactly what we did, in a legal way to fight against the jurisdiction of the government.”
He went on to explain that the very author of Romans 13, the Apostle Paul, broke several laws in his own time.
“Here’s the other ironic thing: Romans 13 was written by Paul. We have scriptural and historical context for Paul being arrested three times for breaking the law. So the person that says ‘don’t break the law’ is the person that got arrested three times — biblically — got arrested three times, and we can speculate up to six times that Paul was arrested for breaking the law.”
Cassell and other Christians like him will continue to fight against these orders. They believe that churches are an essential part of American life, even if government orders say otherwise.
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