A Baltimore pastor isn’t letting the threat of a $5,000 fine stop him from preaching before his church members.
During the middle of delivering a sermon Wednesday night, pastor Stacey Shiflett ripped up a cease-and-desist letter the church received for holding in-person services.
"Either we have liberty to worship or we have permission to worship," Shiflett told Fox News about his decision. "It has become abundantly clear that if we settle for permission, we will never have liberty again."
The Baptist pastor posted video of the shredding incident on Twitter. He can be heard saying, "With this cease-and-desist letter in my hand, the Bible says to the New Testament church 'not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together as the manner of some is, but so much more as you see the day approaching,' and the closer we get to Jesus coming back, the more church we ought to be having, not less church.”
"Now that's God's parameters," he added. "So I'm tearing up this cease-and-desist order right here, and I'm telling you right now, we're gonna do it God's way! God tells us how to worship Him, nobody else gets to do that.”
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan permitted churches to open at half-capacity. The governor left the timing up to local jurisdictions to handle. Baltimore Mayor Jack Young extended the stay-at-home order, which limits public gatherings, including "spiritual" and "religious," to no more than 10 people.
Shiflett’s Calvary Baptist Church can hold 600 people in its sanctuary. With about 100 congregants in the audience on Wednesday, the church was in compliance with Hogan's order. But the service was in defiance of the Baltimore County Department of Health and Human Services' order.
Officials threatened him with a $5,000 fine earlier in the week for holding in-person services.
Shiflett said he doesn't plan on closing down the church.
"I don't plan on shutting the church," he said. If they fine us, I'm not paying it. It's unconstitutional. They don't have a leg to stand on.”
He said he is asking local officials to “render the church essential so we can get our doors back open."
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