Is it against the law to walk through an empty church without a mask? It is in Maryland after a church was cited when the pastor — who was alone in the building during office hours — answered the church door without wearing a mask. A health department official, who was making an unannounced visit, issued the ticket.
“I was in my office alone, without a mask on, and heard someone at the locked door of the church,” Jackman stated. “I was not expecting anyone, so I went to see who was trying to get in the church. Immediately after answering the door, I went to my desk and put on my mask, but the health official seemed intent on finding something worthy of a citation.”
According to the American Constitutional Rights Union, after issuing the citation, the Anne Arundel County Department of Health official told the Rev. Dennis Jackman that he would return, and if Community United Methodist Church in Pasadena was not in full compliance with COVID-19 guidance that the church would be deemed an “unsafe facility” and “closed until the state of emergency has been terminated,” the ACRU added.
The citation also warned of criminal charges and “imprisonment of up to one year, and/or a fine of up to $5,000,” the organization noted, despite the church following all county guidance for services and making an effort to ensure the safety of worshipers.
ACRU President Lori Roman took Maryland officials to task: “Within the span of a week, Governor [Larry] Hogan has signed an executive order releasing prisoners, citing COVID, and health departments across the state have been unleashed to threaten and harass pastors and churches. The entire country is watching this juxtaposition of principles and priorities.”
The pastor also appeared Tuesday on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” and the host said the county health department told the program that it had been receiving complaints about the congregation engaging in “handshaking, high fives, and fist bumps” — which Carlson mockingly referred to as “illicit worship.”
Jackman told Carlson he hadn’t heard of such complaints, that the church has been taking numerous steps to keep visitors safe — and that he’s been preaching his sermons from the back of a truck in the parking lot.
Jackman isn’t the first Maryland pastor to square off with local government over church services amid coronavirus restrictions.
Back in May, Stacey Shiflett — pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Dundalk — read from an “intimidating” cease-and-desist letter he said he received from Baltimore County’s Department of Health and Human Services, warning that the church “could be subject to a fine of up to $5,000” if further in-person services were held in violation of executive orders.
Well, Shiflett went right ahead and not only held a Wednesday night service for 100 attendees in the 600-capacity sanctuary, Fox News reported — but also he tore up the cease-and-desist letter in the middle of his sermon.
“Pharaoh doesn’t get to dictate to God’s people how they worship their God,” Shiflett said with a raised voice. “God’s the one that defines the parameters, God’s the one that communicates his will and his plan for his church — not Egypt.”
During that period of time, Rev. Alvin Gwynn — pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Baltimore City — had harsh words for Democratic Baltimore Mayor Jack Young, who was keeping the city under a stay-at-home order even though Gov. Hogan said restrictions could be loosened.
“We got a mayor saying we can only worship in our parking lots, which is ridiculous,” Gwynn said.