California Pastor Cited for Gathering Members for Easter Service

Sue Byamba
By Sue Byamba
April 16, 2020US News
California Pastor Cited for Gathering Members for Easter Service
A police car in a file photo. (Mira Oberman/AFP/Getty Images)

A California pastor has been summoned to court for gathering worshipers at his church on Easter Sunday, allegedly violating the state’s stay-at-home order.

The pastor, identified as Fernando Aguas, could face a fine of $1,000 and six months in jail, according to Fox News.

On Sunday afternoon at around 3 p.m., local sheriffs received a complaint by the church’s neighbors in Merced.

When the officials arrived at the church Iglesia De Jesus Cristo, they found 50 to 60 people gathered for the Easter service with doors locked and cars parked behind the building.

“We weren’t hiding,” Aguas told KTVU in an interview on Tuesday. “There were kids running around everywhere. We just had people park in back because we didn’t want problems.”

According to Aguas, some people were wearing masks and some didn’t but there was enough distancing between one another.

According to the interview, Aguas thought that the stay-at-home rules were only a recommendation.

Sheriff Vernon H. Warnke told KFSN that Aguas put his entire congregation at risk.

“By putting them in jeopardy, one person could have showed up, not known they’re infected and infected the entire congregation. This congregation now goes out and gets with their family because they think they’re okay, and then it continues to go,” Warnke said.

“You still have freedom of speech, you still have freedom of religion, you’re just gonna have to do it a different way,” Warnke continued. “I’m not telling you you can’t worship, I’m just telling you where you can’t go to do it, and that’s based upon this health directive.”

Aguas is scheduled in court in August.

Sacramento health officials said that about one third of CCP virus cases were related to religious gatherings.

As of Wednesday, 25,779 cases and 790 deaths were reported in California, according to Fox News.

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