Religious-right legal group Liberty Counsel launched a campaign Monday “calling on the churches to open and believers to start meeting again on Sunday, May 3,” which Liberty Counsel is calling ReOpen Church Sunday. The announcement came as “reopen” protests organized by right-wing activists have targeted Democratic governors with calls to ease shutdown orders.
Liberty Counsel, known for anti-LGBTQ-equality activism, has recently defended Rodney Howard-Browne, a Tampa, Florida-based pastor who was arrested at the end of March for holding services that violated COVID-19-related restrictions on public gatherings. After his arrest, Howard-Browne took his services online and has continued to use them to spread conspiracy theories. Deaths of parishioners and pastors have been linked to church gatherings that defied social distancing guidelines.
In a press release distributed Monday, Liberty Counsel connected its “ReOpen” churches campaign to the Trump administration’s recently announced phases for states to begin lifting social distancing restrictions. Liberty Counsel says churches “should include appropriate measures of sanitization and appropriate social distancing between families” and should consider a range of options, including seating outside the building and online access for higher risk individuals.
“The lockdowns have closed churches at a time of greatest need, and they must reopen to meet the burgeoning needs of the community,” Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver said in the press release. But he seemingly undermined the thrust of his campaign with the caveat, “Each church is different and each one must assess when and how best to open.”
A Liberty Counsel webpage promoted as ReOpenChurch.org reproduces the content of the press release.