If the executive order that Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced will present this afternoon contains the total closure of the churches, pastors from different councils warn that they would go to court to guarantee the rights of their congregations. At the same time, they anticipate that churches would open on Sunday as usual.
The announcement of the governor will be today at 4:30 p.m., through a television message where she will abound on changes to the executive order in light of the increase in cases of Covid-19.
“We consider the term that some have used when referring to the churches as a source of infection, without any scientific evidence for such expression, inciting and disrespectful. We hope that this government and its agencies remain obedient to the constitutional parameters of our country, which guarantee freedom of worship, especially in this time of deep anxiety and despair in which our citizens live, since we represent an essential service ”, said Bishop Manuel Fuentes Valentín, president of the Fraternity of Pentecostal Churches (FRAPE), a religious entity that groups more than 2,000 congregations in Puerto Rico.
In a press conference, the also president of the Pentecostal Church of God MI and a pharmacy graduate added that they will not give up in maintaining their rights as a church and that they will resort to the pertinent forums to guarantee the rights of the congregations.
“Until today we have maintained the highest and most rigorous protocol. While the pandemic lasts, we will continue to exercise a preventive stance in order to avoid the spread of Covid-19. We will continue to be collaborators with the government and health agencies in Puerto Rico, seeking the greater well-being of all Puerto Ricans. We will collaborate closely with the state if there is a need to close temples when the health risk of our parishioners from this disease is scientifically and statistically proven, ”he added.
For his part, Pastor René X. Pereira Morales, president and spokesman of Puerto Rico for the Family, specified that the expressions made by the Secretary of the Department of Health (DS), Lorenzo González Feliciano, are unfortunate and regrettable.
“I want to deny what he has said. I have talked on several occasions with the lawyer Héctor Albertorio, who directs the Base Office of Faith of Fortaleza, and he has assured me that the executive order does not contemplate the closure of the churches. The secretary of the DS is lying. There is going to be a suggestion that you make in the statement, which we will already be receiving today. The recommended reduction to 25% of capacity in the churches, "he added.
In that sense, he mentioned that" it does not present evidence, when we know that the government has not been effective in tracking infections, there is no evidence of which churches ”. “There is talk that they have information about churches where there have been infections, which are those churches. It has been given a period of 48 hours since yesterday to produce the evidence of churches where they are exploiting the contagions of Covid-19, there is not. I think they are misguided. ”
Pereira Morales specified that the Secretary of Health does not have the power to issue executive orders, so he cannot order church closings arbitrarily. "Let that be clear! We stand firm in our position. Our churches. Perhaps there are churches that decide to close, but others, including the one that I pastor, will remain open this Sunday as a place of worship in the times when we are in need of spiritual peace. Now more than ever people need peace, they need to strengthen themselves. Our churches will remain open, although we know that the executive order will allow it, "he said.
Meanwhile, Bishop Ricardo López, vice president of FRAPE, in keeping with what Pereira Morales and Fuentes Valentín had proposed, said that the Secretary of Health merely – as a member of the Medical Task Force he gives some recommendations to the governor, but it is from La Fortaleza that decisions are made.
“We believe that the churches should not close because there is no empirical basis for it . In our case, from the Church of God Mission Board… there was only one case and it was treated as the protocol establishes. If the state of the churches being closed persists, we will continue to claim our right to freedom of worship and we will be going to the respective forums to enforce our right, "he said.