OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — Houses of worship across the Bay Area applauded last week’s Supreme Court decision that struck down complete bans on indoor religious services due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While services are allowed to resume, they may not sound the same.
“Happy days are here again,” sang Bishop Bob Jackson of Acts Full Gospel Church in Oakland. His church seats 4,000 and when the music starts and the choir gets fired up, well, it’s not like sitting out in the parking lot.READ MORE: High School Girl Sues San Mateo County, State of California to Allow Indoor Youth Sports
“It’s something powerful that happens,” Jackson said. “And people have missed that. We’ve been shut down for a year.”
While indoor services are allowed, the Supreme Court allowed for some restrictions, including a 25 percent limit on seating and a ban on singing and chanting.
The latter restriction is something that really hits home with Jackson.
“That’s like telling someone, you can come to the football game but we won’t have a football,” he said. “You can’t really worship the Lord without singing, without what they call chanting, what we call praising.”
Santa Clara County tried to resist the Court’s order, arguing that theirs is a ban on all indoor gatherings, not just churches. But a lower court affirmed that churches have protected rights.READ MORE: Longtime San Francisco Merchants Lament Recent Spike in Burglaries
Pastor Jack Trieber of North Valley Baptist Church has been arguing that all along.
“Well, absolutely we have a First Amendment right,” Trieber said. “You can’t make laws against the Church. We have the right to worship.”
Even with the high court’s ruling, not all churches will reopen immediately. Saint Clare’s Catholic Church in Santa Clara created a comfortable outdoor venue and many of its parishioners are preferring to stick with that for now.
Back at Acts Full Gospel in Oakland, they currently operate a COVID-19 testing site in their parking lot two days a week and say they hope to become an East Oakland vaccination site if and when that becomes available.
Inside, every fourth chair is marked with a ribbon. Jackson, who battled COVID-19 himself, promises they’ll be working on a plan to bring people back into the church in as safe a way as possible.MORE NEWS: Fed Judge in SF Approves $650 Million Facebook Privacy Lawsuit Settlement
“You know, we may be Christians but we’re not crazy,” he said.