Thousands Attend Palm Sunday Church Service Despite Orders To Stay Home

Contrary to orders that people stay at home and practice appropriate social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of Americans attended Palm Sunday church services, causing widespread concern for public safety.

Information about the coronavirus pandemic is rapidly changing and Diply is committed to providing the most recent data as it becomes available. Some of the information in this story may have changed since publication, and we encourage readers to use online resources from CDC and WHO to stay up to date on the latest information surrounding COVID-19.

The coronavirus pandemic has had a profound impact on religious folk worldwide.

Unsplash | Aaron Burden

As stay-at-home orders continue to be enforced, the question of whether attending church constitutes an "essential" activity has caused widespread controversy across the United States.

Some governors have dubbed churches as providing "essential" services, while others have not.

Unsplash | Akira Hojo

As the question of whether religious gatherings are to be exempt from stay at home orders continues to rage, with hordes of conservatives ardently arguing that religious gatherings are an essential part of life, most states with leading cases are exempting religious gatherings from stay-at-home orders at present.

In fact, "In almost all of the states that lead the nation in numbers of cases, and which have issued blanket stay-at-home orders, there are specific exemptions for religious gatherings or acts of worship," a Guardian survey recently found.

Over the weekend, thousands of Americans flocked to church regardless of the government's instructions.

Instagram | ltcbr_bus

Even in states where churches have been ordered to close their doors until the coronavirus pandemic passes, some church officials have claimed that they will continue to remain open, in open defiance of the government's orders. The Courier Journal highlighted certain pastors from Louisville who expressed their uncompromising desire to remain open.

One such pastor is Dr. Jack Roberts of Maryville Baptist Church.

Maryville Baptist Church

The 76-year-old preacher from Louisville claimed that he would happily face court, and possibly jail time, over paying a fine for violating the Kentucky Department of Public Health's orders.

"I’m not interested in trying to defy the government. I don't want to battle with anybody. What I'd like to do is just preach the gospel, and that's become more difficult as time's gone on. And it's truthfully what I plan on doing," Roberts explained to the Courier Journal.

The statement has received widespread criticism from the public, with such responses including the likes of:

"Lock up this preacher set an example."

"Shame on this pastor. Maybe just make a pre-recording of the service from home. Such a shame."

And, "A pastor is supposed to be the shepherd of his congregation and keep them safe. This guy is endangering them."

Kentucky's Governor was cautious in his response to Dr. Jack Roberts' claims.

Twitter | @GovAndyBeshear

In response to the pastor's passionate viewpoint, Governor Andy Beshear stated, "If you're still holding mass gatherings, church or otherwise, you were [sic] spreading the coronavirus. And you were likely causing the death of Kentuckians. It's that clear," in a press conference in Frankfort.

There have been some pastors who have already faced criminal charges for their flaunting of crucial public health measures.

Pastor Tony Spell was recently arrested on supposed charges of defying a state ban on gatherings of more than 10 people.

Instagram | ltcbr_bus

The Louisiana pastor was reportedly holding services at Life Tabernacle Church, with "hundreds of parishioners" arriving via busses, The Hill reports.

Spell claimed that people being stuck in their houses would lead to them becoming depressed and ultimately, "worse than the people who have already contracted this virus and died."

Spell's attorney attested that even though the church attendants were brought in on 26 busses, they were all kept at least 6-feet-apart.

Health experts have also warned of the danger that attending church poses to the American population.

Unsplash | Sincerely Media

The founder of Health Watch USA, Dr. Kevin Kavanagh, acknowledged that this is an unsettling time when people's faith will mean more to them than ever; however, they explained that the dangers of attending church outweigh the benefits for the public.

"One of the cruelest characteristics of the coronavirus epidemic is that it strikes fear in the hearts and minds of many causing them to ask for comfort and protection from the God they believe in."

"And, at the same time, this virus has made a church service one of the most deadliest places to be in. The combination of singing in close quarters and decreased ventilation is nothing short of a petri dish for viral growth," Dr. Kavanagh wrote in an Infection Control Today essay.

Despite the thousands who attended church over the weekend, there were some who practiced their faith from home.

Twitter | @GovAbbott

Many people took to Twitter to share how they were practicing their faith from the safety of their own homes, with one user writing alongside a picture of a service live stream:

"This is not how I expected to spend #PalmSunday but I am grateful to be safe at home with my family. This morning we are watching my local parish stream mass for us to watch from home. Wishing everyone a blessed Palm Sunday."

Even President Trump expressed that he would be watching his church's "Easter Palm and Easter Sunday" services from home, while also lamenting how sad it would be to do so: "How sad is it that we have Easter Palm and Easter Sunday and people are watching on laptops and computers," he said in a statement.

Hopefully, more people will heed the stay-at-home orders and stay indoors during Easter celebrations.

Unsplash | Kate Remmer

These are terrifying times for so many of us, and in these times it is only natural for so many to take solace in their faith. However, it is crucial at these times to stay at home as much as possible, and practice your faith from home in order to keep safe yourself, your community, and your country as a whole.

h/t: Upworthy