With the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent order lifting any prohibitions on indoor services, two Galt churches shared their views on that decision.
It was ruled by the Supreme Court on Feb. 5 that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s state order banning indoor religious services during the COVID-19 pandemic is a violation of the Constitution’s protection of the free exercise of religion.
Although California can no longer prohibit such indoor gatherings, those services must not exceed 25% of a building’s capacity.
Prior to the Supreme Court’s order, places of worship in California were restricted to outdoor services under the state’s Purple-Tier status.
Pastor Rick Keiser, of Family Life Christian Church, told the Herald that he is “thrilled” by the court’s decision.
“I’m thrilled,” he said. “At least the pastors in town that I’ve talked with, we’ve tried to be really careful since this thing all laid itself out. I think everybody agrees, we should have always been allowed to meet.
“But I’ll speak for myself, there is a health issue that’s also at hand. So, I tried to be delicate of what I believe is our rights to assemble, and also we have a responsibility to our community, too.”
Keiser mentioned that the Supreme Court’s order will currently not affect his congregation.
“The change doesn’t impact me other than the churches we associate with or are affiliated with here in our community,” he said. “I know they’re going to be able to go back and meet.
“We were meeting outdoors. When winter hit that first really cold rain, we just went to an all-online format. So, we’re just going to keep doing that. It doesn’t change anything we’re doing at this point.”
Keiser added that the church’s board is waiting to evaluate that issue.
“We’re kind of in a unique predicament, because we do meet indoors, (but) we don’t have our own building. We meet at a school, and so that creates the additional challenge for us, because now we’re waiting for the school district to allow us to meet back. And since they don’t even have kids on campus yet, we’re not there yet.”
Bishop Todd Messersmith, of the Twin Cities Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, told the Herald that there is a lot of excitement surrounding the return to in-person meetings.
“Everybody’s elated to be able to come back together and meet and have the opportunity to come in contact with others that have similar Christian beliefs,” he said. “So, it’s a very supportive situation that causes unity and brings people together.
“It’s pretty exciting and we’ve been waiting a long time (to meet in person). So, I’m sure there will be a lot of enthusiasm about the opportunity to do so.”
Because the pandemic has not yet ended, Messersmith noted that his ward’s members will be given the option of meeting indoors at the church or continuing to view services online through the Zoom application.
“We would be also broadcasting it virtually and we respect everybody’s choices,” he said.
“I think (in-person attendance) will be a little bit lower, because there are those that really still need to be conservative on their attendance of being around other people. But I think we’ll have probably at least 75% of our congregation (present), and they will be excited to be there.”
Messersmith added that the ward will resume its in-person meetings on Sunday, Feb. 22.