We, the signers of this document, are citizens who reject the authoritarian monitoring of churches, pastors and congregations, and harassment, threats and intimidation that infringe on religious liberty.
We support Community United Methodist Church in Pasadena, Maryland and Rev. Dennis Jackman in the wake of Anne Arundel Department of Health’s citation and threats of fines, imprisonment and closure over very minor issues that posed no threat to public health. Further, the threats that government officials would continue to monitor the church appear intended to harass and intimidate faith leaders, in violation of constitutional protections.
Community United Methodist Church in Pasadena, Maryland has been issued a citation resulting from one employee of the church answering the door to the church during office hours, momentarily without a mask, to unlock the door for a Health Department official. The church was not holding services at the time and the employee had been alone in an office until the Health Department official showed up at the door unannounced.
After issuing the citation, the health department official informed the pastor, Rev. Dennis Jackman M.D., that he would return and if the church was not in full compliance with the Anne Arundel County Department of Health COVID-19 Guidance (authorized by Health Officer Nilesh Kalyanaraman and County Executive Steuart Pittman) that the church would be deemed an “unsafe facility” and “closed until the state of emergency has been terminated.”
The citation also threatens criminal charges and “imprisonment of up to one year, and /or a fine of up to $5000.” This was threatened despite the fact the church had been following all County guidance during church services and had made every effort to ensure the safety of worshippers.
This example in Maryland is one of many across the country.
During these difficult times, we have been blessed to receive comfort and fellowship from our faith leaders. They have willingly worked with government officials and others to help in a spirit of cooperation.
We now strongly request that governors, county executives and health department officials across the country reject authoritarian actions and respect the important role of faith leaders and the essential nature of their ministries.