Pastor Bradford Winship
Jersey Shore Evangelical Ministers Fellowship
1 Matawan Road
Laurence Harbor, NJ 08879
April 20, 2020
The Honorable Phil Murphy
Governor of New Jersey
Office of Governor
PO Box 001
Trenton, NJ 08625
Dear Governor Murphy:
During this time of pandemic, the churches pray that you will be blessed with wisdom and personal good health.
The churches are requesting clarification on your executive orders with regard to church services. Within your orders, there were no references to the churches except for an allowance that residents may “leave the home for an educational, religious, or political reason.” This has created some confusion concerning whether to classify the church as an essential or non-essential entity.
Obviously, the churches are ready to make every effort to aid the state in mitigating the effects of COVID-19. After weeks of media coverage, church leadership has become well aware of the safety requirements. To accommodate, most churches can provide online worship services as well as on-location services with safe social distancing (up to 10-20 feet spacing) for those members who have need for in-person worship. Churches that cannot meet the health requirements are certainly out of the question.
Many Catholic churches are unlocking their doors and allowing congregants to enter for prayer as long as they wear face coverings and sit in designated seating.
Not only is the church “essential” in the legal sense of the word, but the church can meet all requirements imposed upon essential businesses. In fact, churches can provide much better social distancing and cleaning procedures than the typical essential business (warehouse, office or grocery store). Church services also impose less risk because churches meet only weekly for one hour while most essential businesses meet daily for eight hours. Also, similar to essential businesses, church attendance is predominately a consistent, well-monitored group.
In addition to being able to meet all health requirements put upon essential businesses, like the media, the churches have special first amendment rights.
On Tuesday, April 14, Attorney General William Barr issued a statement regarding certain states that were prohibiting church services. In short,
(A) “Even in times of emergency, when reasonable and temporary restrictions are placed on rights, the First Amendment and federal statutory law prohibit discrimination against religious institutions and religious believers.”
(B) Regarding executive orders upon the churches, state governments must establish that its actions are “the least restrictive means of achieving a compelling governmental interest.”
(C) “Government may not impose special restrictions on religious activity that do not also apply to similar nonreligious activity.”
Finally, there is a mental/social necessity for church meetings. For many members, the church is their only family. The same mental health rationale for keeping liquor stores open should also be applied to AA meetings, group counseling and church meetings.
This request for clarification is not an appeal to allow churches to return to normal operations, but for The State of New Jersey to classify the church services as an essential social service under the same regulations as essential retail, office, warehousing, manufacturing, construction businesses, etc. As an essential service, the church can fulfill Order 107.11 and “make best efforts to reduce staff [congregants] on site to the minimal number necessary to ensure that essential operations can continue.” This can be done by encouraging most church congregants to participate online.
We ask you, as Governor, to issue a specific order with regard to the churches since it is questionable as to whether the State Director of Emergency Management, or any other local official, has the authority to make rulings or interpretations in the absence of any mention of churches in your executive orders.
Pastor Bradford Winship
Jersey Shore Evangelical Ministers Fellowship
CC Matthew J. Platkin – Chief Counsel to the Governor
Gurbir Grewal – NJ State Attorney General
The following opinion piece was sent to the Rutger’s University paper, The Daily Targum. The editorial is a response to a Edward Reep’s editorial, “Gay rights movement must advance.”
In Edward Reep’s recent opinion article “The Gay Rights Movement Must Advance,” he expresses the goal of the homosexual agenda, “. . . we truly want to create a world where same-sex relationships are accepted, not just tolerated . . . .”
Gay activists hope that the day will come when a gay couple will be as accepted in the community as Ozzie and Harriet, or June and Ward Cleaver. History and human nature lead many to believe it will never happen. There is as great a chance of convincing every homosexual to go straight as there is convincing every heterosexual to accept homosexuality. The general public will “tolerate” homosexuality but never fully “accept.” Why? Natural law, freedom, and the power of the theistic world view.
Ethnic profiling is back in the news after the Brits arrested twenty-one Muslims for plotting to blow up airplanes. The issue arises every time the public is reminded that terrorists always turn up to be Islamic Middle Eastern men. Common sense takes over and Americans hope to heaven that law enforcement doesn’t take seriously all this politically correct drivel about the evils of profiling.
The ACLU says ethnic profiling is unjust. A cursory study of Scripture would lead one to believe ethnic profiling is a necessary tool if properly used. Everyone bears some responsiblity for the actions of his fellow countrymen, his religion, and his family line. It may not mean full-responsibility, but you may be inconvenienced if your cohorts behave badly. That is life. Get used to it! The Bible reads “For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself” (Romans 14:7).
I am one of those Evangelical Christians who have some grave reservations about occupying Iraq in the war on terrorism. Don’t misunderstand! My reasons are not at all similar to those on the left. It is not because I want to give peace a chance, or because I think diplomacy is the answer, or because I am naïve concerning evil. Nor am I like one of those turn-tail politicians who last year supported the use of force in Iraq, but now criticize the war as being a second Vietnam. No, I find myself in an atypical camp– not able to hold my head high with the Republicans, and not able to bash Bush with the Democrats.
From the very beginning, my reservations have flowed out of my concerns for the underlying values found in the Arab world. Of course, President Bush doesn’t share these concerns. In the recent State of the Union address, he stated, “We also hear doubts that democracy is a realistic goal for the greater Middle East, where freedom is rare. Yet it is mistaken, and condescending, to assume that whole cultures and great religions are incompatible with liberty and self-government. I believe that God has planted in every human heart the desire to live in freedom. And even when that desire is crushed by tyranny for decades, it will rise again.”
Biblical Perspective – John Kerry on Abortion and Legislating Personal Morality
As John Kerry moves closer to the democratic nomination for President, the press is busily scrutinizing his political positions. The most recent disclosure is Kerry’s run-in with his own church. While his Catholic church is adamantly pro-life, Kerry is pro-choice.
In a statement last summer Kerry argued, “I believe in the church and I care about it enormously. But I think that it’s important to not have the church instructing politicians. That is an inappropriate crossing of the line in America.” He went on further to say he agrees with his church on abortion as a matter of faith but doesn’t think he should legislate personal beliefs.
An Evangelical Christian Perspective: The Enron Debacle by Pastor Brad Winship
Accounting audits are required by the SEC in order to check the natural proclivity corporations have toward misreporting earnings. But what if the accounting firms are in cahoots with the corporations? Let’s not forget that accounting firms have a bent toward appeasing their corporate customers. Do we then turn to the government as the watch dog? Couldn’t corporations simply throw that dog a steak and sneak past the system? How can the government be impartial in this era of enormous campaign donations from corporations?
It is often assumed that the American principle of checks and balances is based on the concept that the greed for power of one group will check the greed for power of another. For instance, accounting firms will be motivated to be honest because, in their business, integrity brings financial rewards. The politicians will be motivated to be honest because they desire votes from the people. Corporations will submit to the government and auditors because they want to maintain a good image before investors. Funny, none of this worked in the Enron case because if each of the “checks and balances” are greedy for power, each can conspire together to cheat the public.
An Evangelical Christian Perspective: How Good are We?
Something seemed amiss in a statement made by our president in his October 11th news conference. Can you find it? Does it make you feel uncomfortable? In answering a question, President Bush replies, “How do I respond when I see that in some Islamic countries there is vitriolic hatred for America? I’ll tell you how I respond: I’m amazed — like most Americans, I just can’t believe it because I know how good we are.”
How “good” are we, Mr. President? Do we measure up to “good”? I understand what our president is saying–good in the relative sense in which most people use the term. We are good compared to Nazi Fascists or to evil terrorists. But as a Christian, it is difficult to invoke the term “good.” Christians define good in an absolute sense, that is, good compared to God’s goodness. Christians are very familiar with the famous verses of Romans that define man’s goodness.
“There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understand, there is none who seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become useless. There is none who does good, there is not even one.”
An Evangelical Christian Perspective: Schundler’s Just Society
When Bret Schundler weds his political ideals to his religious convictions, New Jersey voters get nervous. Maybe we feel this way because some of the biggest religious voices in our generation have preached a faith of intolerance and bigotry, or maybe we fear that the end results of wedding politics and religion will be a Taliban-type state. But if we listen carefully to Schundler, instead of fearing his religious fervor, we would appreciate that we are getting something more in Schundler than a wind bag politician.
When asked about his faith Schundler replies, “Everyone has a religion.” He is absolutely right! Everyone has an underlining philosophy of life. Call it a religion, call it a system of beliefs, call it a higher power; but everyone has a philosophy that gives a basis for political decisions. That philosophy may be darwinistic (survival of the fittest) or pragmatic (the greatest good for the greatest number of people) or the Biblical philosophy reiterated by Schundler, (“Therefore all things whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you even so to them” Matthew 7:12)
An Evangelical Christian Perspective: National ID
For some, national ID cards conjure up images of a totalitarian regime. Others are afraid that this is the prelude to having 666 stamped on their forehead. But in this new warfare, where the enemy hides among the citizenship, we may have no other choice. Furthermore, illegal immigration is out of control. It is time for our government to enforce the law or open the borders to everyone.
In a free society we cherish human rights, but we are not guaranteed the right to anonymity. Unless you are up to something, what fear would you have of being identified as an American citizen? We could all learn from the attitude of Jesus, who said, “I spoken openly to the world . . . and I spoke nothing in secret.” I don’t fear the truth–I would be glad to have a card that verifies who I say I am, and especially a card that verifies that the other guy is who he says he is.
An Evangelical Christian Perspective: The Prophecy of the End
Every time war erupts in the Middle East there is a renewed interest in end-times prophecy. During the Gulf War, long-established books on the apocalypse were bought up while publishers worked diligently to put out dozens of new titles on the subject. This should not surprise us; prophecy fever was also at its height during the World Wars and the Cold War.
However, there is no need for alarm. Concerning the end of the world, Jesus Himself said, “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end.” Wars do not signal “the end”! Wars will be part of the landscape throughout this age of humanity.
Nevertheless, the Bible does speak of a coming “end of the world”—the world as we know it. The Christian worldview is not one of history dragging on aimlessly into eternity, but of history moving toward a point of reckoning—the coming “Day of the Lord.”
In order for the fire of terrorism to be burning in the Islamic community there must be fuel. Terrorist organizations can thrive only in a society that generally support their ideologies. The terrorist themselves become the ideological heroes and purists of a pervasive mood .
We have heard that the reason for the Jihad is that terrorists “hate freedom loving people. Others have suggested that the hatred flows from a class envy struggle—they hate us because we are the rich Americans who supposedly control the world economy. This is surely a contributing factor, after all, the human species has always had this problem of finding scapegoats to excuse personal failure.
And then there is this idea of America as the “Great Satan,” corrupting the world with its licentious culture. Certainly, this has not helped foster endearment for America, but do moral scruples alone inflame Islamic fundamentalist to murder the distant American infidels?
The Tragedy: An Evangelical Christian Perspective
As tragedy once again strikes, Americans are asking the age-old question, “Why do innocent people suffer?” or rather, “Why is there evil in the world?”
The philosophical answers to this question fall into one of three categories: (1) God is good, but impotent to stop evil (2) God is not good or He does not even exist (3) God has a good purpose for allowing evil.
Although answers one and two have many followers, most people find comfort in the third answer–the genuine Biblical answer that God has a good purpose for allowing evil.
The Christians Scriptures declare “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God to those who are called according to His purpose.” Even though God is not the creator of evil, God shows His power by thwarting evil to fulfill His good purposes for mankind. Therefore, the Jewish Patriarch, Joseph, could say to evil men “You meant this for evil, but God meant it for good to preserve many people alive.” Yes, even Bin Laden cannot thwart the sovereign plan of God. Neither is Bin Laden exonerated because God will turn evil into a greater good. Jesus profoundly states, “It must need be that offenses come but woe to that man by whom they come.”