67 NJ Pastors Say They'll Sue If Not Allowed to Reopen, Question Why People Can Go to Home Depot but Not Church

Sixty-seven New Jersey pastors said they will sue the state if they are not allowed to reopen their churches to in-person services, according to a letter sent to Governor Phil Murphy Thursday.

"The pastors' right to preach to their congregations is enshrined in the United States and New Jersey Constitutions. So too is the right of each and every New Jersey resident to attend church and gather with other like-minded people to worship God if they choose to do so," states the letter, which was submitted to the governor by the Law Offices of Ruta, Soulios, and Stratis, LLP on behalf of the 67 named pastors.

"On their behalf, we respectfully urge you to modify prior Executive Orders deeming churches 'nonessential.' We further ask that you allow churches to reopen their physical doors so the people of New Jersey can once again worship God in accordance with their conscience and sincerely held religious beliefs," the letter states.

Attached to the letter was a copy of the lawsuit that will be filed with the federal district court in New Jersey should the governor not agree to allow churches to reopen by May 27.

Alex McCormick, the pastor of Impact Church in Burlington, New Jersey, told NJ.com in an interview that he did not see why some businesses are allowed to reopen while churches are forced to remain shuttered.

"We take the safety of our parishioners very seriously. Why would you say people can go to Lowes, Home Depot and the liquor store, but not church?" McCormick said.

President Donald Trump echoed the sentiments in the letter at a press conference Friday when he stated that houses of worship should be deemed essential, citing that "liquor stores and abortion clinics" have been named essential by some governors during the pandemic.

"Today I am identifying houses of worship – churches, synagogues, and mosques – as essential places that provide essential services. Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential, but have left out churches and other houses of worship. That's not right, so I'm correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential," Trump said.

Alyana Alfaro Post, the press secretary for the New Jersey governor, told Newsweek in an email Saturday that Trump and Murphy had a "productive discussion" Friday regarding religious gatherings.

"On Friday, President Trump and Governor Murphy had a productive discussion on the need to continue to move forward intelligently regarding religious services as New Jersey continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. While the Governor's orders will remain in effect, this matter continues to be under serious consideration as New Jersey moves toward Phase 2," the press secretary said.

Churches in New Jersey are currently allowed to gather in groups of 10 or under when indoors, and in groups of up to 25 in outdoor services, provided social distancing guidelines are followed.

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ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - MAY 07: A man wearing a mask walks past a shuttered church during the coronavirus pandemic on May 7, 2020 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images) Mark Makela/Getty