Some New Jersey churches to reopen in defiance of state order

BERLIN, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Several South Jersey pastors say they answer to a higher power and want to reopen their doors, even if Governor Phil Murphy has prohibited church services.

Pastor Charles Clark, of Solid Rock Baptist Church in Berlin, said the United States Constitution gives him the right, and the Bible gives him the mandate to invite parishioners back to the pews.

"Walmart is open, the pet store is open, the bicycle repair shop is open, and all are considered essential, but the church has been closed," he said.

Clark's attorney sent a letter to Murphy demanding that the status of churches in the Garden State be switched from non-essential to essential.

Meanwhile, Pastor Andy Reese, of Bible Baptist Church in Clementon, already re-opened last Sunday in defiance of state order.

Reese says he understands he may face a legal backlash.

"We're prepared to stand for what is right, for what is true, and we're prepared to face whatever consequences these are. If necessary, go to court," he said.

Even as the state slowly begins to reopen, Murphy has made it clear that until there's a vaccine or treatment, mass gatherings, including church services, will likely remain restricted.

"Inside, no ventilation, close contact, it's a hard nut to crack. We're just not there yet," he said.

Clark said his church will adhere to strict safety guidelines including temperature checks at the door, masks and social distancing.

But he says make no mistake, his church is reopening its doors with or without the governor's blessing.

"We will continue to pray for our governor and those in authority. But we, as a church, will exercise our constitutional right. Solid Rock Baptist Church begins services here this Sunday," Clark said.

So far, no word what, if any, legal or law enforcement action will be taken again churches that defy the governor's order.

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