Declaration of Assembly

To the Governor and other civil authorities in Washington State

As ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Christians committed to worshipping the Triune God of the Bible, we declare that as of June, 2020, we will resume worshipping as we see fit according to our First Amendment rights to free exercise and assembly and in obedience to our call to corporately gather for worship.

When emergency orders were issued in March to cease gathering in our churches in order to not overwhelm our medical system, we gladly complied. We are thankful for the initial precautions and efforts made to protect the elderly and vulnerable from COVID-19, and this Declaration in no way takes away from our desire to comply with lawful and reasonable restrictions. We continue to pray for you, our state, and nation. But once it became clear that hospitals and medical services were not overwhelmed, the governor continued to allow alcohol retailers, pot shops, not to mention abortion clinics, to function as “essential services” while prohibiting churches from gathering in-person even while socially distancing. And all of this despite the explicit religious protections recognized (though not created) by the First Amendment.

The First Amendment of the Constitution recognizes and protects what God bestows on all people: the free exercise of religion and the right to gather and worship. It’s clear that in Washington State no state of emergency is present, which is why the governor voiced his support for protestors to peaceably assemble where large crowds without social distancing marched through many of our communities. And yet this same support is not given to religious bodies that are burdened with all kinds of restrictions. While restaurants and food industries can hand out food items, churches cannot hand out communion. The government orders have not been narrowly tailored but have discriminated against organizations (and businesses) the Governor deems “not essential”, and therefore we declare our intention to assemble and minister as we see fit in the best interest of our congregations for worship and fellowship, to the glory of God and the good of our people.

We stand with churches throughout our nation asking God to grant us repentance for our many sins. Jesus Christ was crucified in public by a Roman governor, and by His bodily resurrection from the dead, God declared Him to be Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). This Declaration is not as much an act of civil disobedience as it is a commitment to uphold the duty we have been assigned: to meet and worship together and exercise the rights we have as people made in God’s image, free citizens and not subjects of unaccountable authorities. God requires us to submit to civil magistrates, ultimately appointed by Him to do good and punish evil (Rom. 13:1-7), when they uphold the laws that govern them. However, when a civil magistrate is discriminatory or violates our rights, we must honor the law and not the authority who breaks it. Our colonies were founded based on this understanding, rejecting a lawless Parliament that issued taxes but did not represent us. Our circumstances are different, but the same principles apply.

We are praying for you in these challenging times and are committed to loving and serving the people of Washington State. May God bless and show His kindness to you in Christ.

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Pacific Justice Institute
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