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Story by Bill Hutchinson | abcmews.com - Story Source
Published on Monday May 10, 2021 - 7:56 AM
 
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SALEM, Oregon - Returning to the pulpit after a COVID-19 outbreak infected him, his wife and 72 members of their congregation, the senior pastor of an Oregon church said Sunday that he will not kowtow to pressure to close the doors to the house of worship.

Pastor Scott Erickson of the Peoples Church in Salem, Oregon, began his Mother's Day sermon by addressing the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in his church and throughout the state.

"In the last several days, it is apparent that voices in our community and region want the church of Jesus Christ to be quiet and to be closed," Erickson told those in attendance at the church and others watching a livestream online broadcast. "Not us, not here, not now. That's not what we're doing."

Peoples Church was among 10 churches in Oregon that joined together to file a lawsuit in May 2020 asking the Baker County Circuit Court to issue a temporary restraining order blocking Oregon Gov. Kate Brown from enforcing stay-at-home executive regulations against churches. The lawsuit argued that Brown's restrictions on churches violated constitutional protections for religious freedom.

In December, Brown lifted restrictions on religious gatherings, changing them to "guidelines." Brown's decision came shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court barred New York from enforcing strict attendance limits on churches in areas that were designated as COVID-19 hot spots.

Erickson, 70, who has been pastor of Peoples Church for 21 years, said his decision to keep the church open was, in his opinion, not an act of defiance.

"We'll press on and honor what Jesus said in his word. He said, "I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.' I believe his word is true," Erickson said.

The pastor's Sunday sermon came after the Oregon Health Authority announced Wednesday that it launched an investigation on April 6 into the coronavirus outbreak at the church that left 74 members infected...


Background

Pictured above left: Pastor Scott Erickson of the Peoples Church in Salem, Oregon (Pastor Scott Erickson stands in front of a tent used for Sunday services at Peoples Church on Tuesday, May 19, 2020. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter))