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County Board Asked to Open Churches Again

By: Mario Conde, Reporter

The Stay-At-Home order and the strict guidelines to bend the COVID-19 curve have forced large gatherings to be canceled until further notice, which includes religious services.

At the May 19 Imperial County Board of Supervisors meeting, Walter Colace, Pastor at Christ Community Church, spoke to the board about the importance of congregating and allowing churches to be a place for spiritual healing and support during this pandemic.

“Many people have been dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression, during this time,” Colace told the board, “the church is a building but it’s a place where people have found help when they were broken and accepted Jesus so they could live a better life,”

Colace lamented that the State guidelines contemplate opening churches on Stage 3 while liquor stores remain open. Colace cited news articles that talk about how alcohol if affecting people during this pandemic and its effects on people.

“How is it that alcohol stores are essential and churches are not?” Colace asked, “Churches are also essential.”

He mentioned how his church had a Drive-in activity on Mother’s Day and their members were happy to see each other.

“My words might not reach the Governor’s ears but I will reach out to you and I ask for your support to reopen churches again,” Colace told the board.

“Governor Newsom will say that churches are rebelling and putting people’s lives at stake. But when does it get to the point when our own governor is rebelling and putting lives at risk and not the churches? I believe we are there now. Imperial County has 180 thousand people with 529 cases, that’s .002 percent,” Colace said.

It was argued that the benchmark to get to Stage 3 is months away from happening and people need to congregate and help them in this time. The proposal is for churches to follow the same guidelines that the big stores follow for their parishioners. The proposal includes that people that are ill will not be allowed, the face mask will be required, there will be social distancing, attendance capacity will be determined based on the size of the room, no physical contact, and hand sanitizers will be available.

“We are asking the County Board of Supervisors to approve a variance to move church congregations to Stage 2,” Colace said.

Board Chairman Luis Plancarte said that they could not take action since the item is not on the agenda. County Counsel Adam Crook said that it would need to be brought back as an item to consider a variance in the guidelines.

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