Churches should obey those in authority, says Franklin Graham

Published 15 April 2020  |  
(Photo: Facebook/Franklin Graham)
Franklin Graham has said he is considering legal action over the cancellation of his UK tour events.

Franklin Graham has waded into the row over whether churches should be forced to close because of the coronavirus pandemic.

With many areas in the US subject to "stay at home" orders, some church leaders have insisted on continuing to hold in-person services despite the outbreak.

The evangelist and son of Billy Graham has said that pastors should, in his opinion, obey those in charge.

Speaking to conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, Graham said that the Church still "needs to continue to be the Church", but added that the closure of buildings was not the same thing as the closure of church.

"We need to obey those in authority. That's what the Bible teaches," he said.

He continued: "The churches are not shut down. I think more people are attending online services than they did when they were meeting in person."

He said that the virus was very infectious and "could be a death sentence" for people with underlying health issues.

"But I'd just encourage pastors across the country to obey those that are in authority. And I think that's what the congregations would expect us to do," he said.

Christians, he continued, should still do "the work that God has called us to do" but at the same time, take precautions against catching or spreading the virus.

"Practising social distancing is wise," he said.

The issue of church closures has been contentious in the US. Over the Easter weekend, Attorney General William Barr said that action would be taken against officials who single out religious organisations in the enforcement of social distancing regulations.

"During this sacred week for many Americans, AG Barr is monitoring govt regulation of religious services," said Kerry Kupec, spokeswoman for his office, tweeted on Saturday.

"While social distancing policies are appropriate during this emergency, they must be applied evenhandedly & not single out religious orgs. Expect action from DOJ [Department of Justice] next week!"

In California, pastors are suing state officials over the prohibitions on large gatherings, including in some places church services.

The Dhillon Law Group, led by Republican Party official Harmeet Dhillon, filed a suit to the US District Court for the Central District of California on behalf of four plaintiffs - three pastors and one churchgoer.

The lawsuit claims that such restrictions are an abuse of power and contravene "fundamental rights protected by the US and California Constitutions, including freedom of religion, speech, and assembly, and due process and equal protection under the law".

California Governor Gavin Newsom, who is named in the suit, said last week that Christians could go to church as long as they observe social distancing rules.

"As you pray, move your feet at least six feet apart from someone else," he said. "Practise your faith, but do so in a way that allows you to keep yourself healthy, keep others healthy."


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