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San Diego houses of worship told to move services outside by Saturday

Posted at 5:18 PM, Nov 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-11 20:18:24-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – Wearing masks and social distancing, churchgoers in Mira Mesa gathered outside of the Good Shepherd Parish Wednesday for a special Veterans Day mass.

Under San Diego County's latest move into the purple tier, outdoor mass will be the new normal for the church until we move back into a less restrictive tier.

“We want to protect the people,” said Father Michael Pham, a pastor at the Catholic church. “Health is important.”

He said since reopening, the church has offered services inside at a limited capacity, outside and online. By Saturday, indoor operations will cease due to the county falling back into the purple tier.

“We want to comply with the state and health department,” said Pham. “It’s a challenge, but people seem to adapt very well.”

While Pham plans to comply, some others are pushing back.

Skyline Church posted a lengthy statement to its website, reacting to news of the purple tier. Part of the message said, “Regardless of what tier the governor assigns to San Diego County, our Board, Trustees, and staff all agree that it is necessary to remain open for the overall health and well-being of our communities.”

We saw this happen during the last round of closures. Some churches kept their doors open, saying shutting them any longer would lead to severe problems for people, including mental health issues.

The county’s public health officer sent cease and desist letters to a few, but some continued to fight back, arguing that religious services are essential.

“Fighting for our religious freedoms and pushing back against government overreach is not only worth the cost, it’s essential,” said the pastors of Awaken Church in a video posted to the church’s website months ago during another closure.

Pham said his main goal is to protect his congregants and only reopen once allowed.

“We try to do the best we can,” he said. “People are really conscientious about what they need to do, that’s important, that’s the reality that we live in right now.”