A New Jersey pastor who said police broke up his outdoor sermon last weekend due to state orders told the “Todd Starnes Radio Show” on Tuesday that what surprised him most was the number of people willing to report him to police.
Democrats like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio have told residents that they should report anyone found in violation of state orders during the coronavirus pandemic and even said violators should have their photos taken and sent to NYC.gov.
At least three police officers were dispatched to monitor the outdoor service at Union Church of Lavallette after numerous residents called to complain. At one point, the officers disrupted the service as the pastor was reading from the Bible.
“I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news but we’re getting numerous complaints about social distancing. And I apologize about this,” one unidentified officer said.
The officers then told the congregation they had to be at least six feet a part — including members of the same family.
“Drexel, you can’t sit alongside your mom – you’ve got to spread apart,” the pastor told a little boy seated next to his mother.
“We’re getting numerous calls that’s why we’re there,” the officer said. “What time does this end guys? If we get any more complains we’ll let you know.”
Authorities interrupting church services has become a common theme during the outbreak and has strained relationships between churches and local governments.
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And while Pastor Todd Condell from Union Church of Lavallette is opposed to the government overreach in churches, he is particularly unnerved by the cars were slowing down outside his church to take pictures.
“It almost felt like we were in Nazi Germany,” Condell said. “People were slowing down in their cars to take pictures of us so they could report us.”
Condell insisted that the health of his congregation is his top priority, but said he has kept his church open to offer refuge to those seeking it.
“This is supposed to be the country where we’re supposed to have the freedom to worship and to serve God, especially Jesus Christ,” he said. “What amazed me was the Americans are so ready to turn on one another and report us.”
Todd Starnes, the best-selling author and radio hot, has been a vocal critic of government overreach during the outbreak. He told Condell Americans reporting Americans is “right out of the Nazi Germany playbook.”
New Jersey has been one of the hardest-hit states in the country with 88,722 confirmed infections and nearly 4,500 deaths as of Monday.
Gov. Phil Murphy, the Democrat, has faced public pushback over his decision to shut down state and county parks. But Politico reported that Murphy’s approval rating, according to Monmouth University, is at 71 percent.
Murphy said Monday that he hopes to unveil a plan that provides lays out the “blueprint” to reopening the state. Murphy, like other governors, said a lot hinges on testing goals and new infections.
Health officials have criticized pastors for holding services and putting their congregations at risk for infection. Researchers are still learning about coronavirus transmission, but the one consistent recommendation has been social distancing and frequent hand washing.
Condell said that he has no intention of causing trouble or being a pain for police, but he said he answers to a higher power.
“Just because man’s word says this, I’m not going to do what man’s word tells me to do, I’m going to do what God’s word says,” he said.