Black Pastors in Missouri Say It’s Too Soon to Return to Church

Image: Larry Dixon Jr / Lightstock

Missouri leaders are preparing to reopen the state next week, but black pastors in St. Louis are urging churches, especially those in the black community, to remain closed.

Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s plan allows all businesses and organizations to restart as of Monday, including religious services.

Local governments may impose stricter limits, and the largest jurisdictions have done so. Stay-at-home orders in Kansas City, Jackson County, St. Louis city and St. Louis County will continue until at least mid-May.

Officials with the St. Louis Clergy Coalition said Tuesday that they’re concerned reopening churches will worsen the pandemic in the already hard-hit black community. About 30 percent of all cases in Missouri — and 40 percent of deaths — involve black residents, even though just 12 percent of the state’s population is black. The percentage is even worse in the St. Louis area, which makes up more than half of all cases and two-thirds of all deaths in the state.

“We can’t put people in harm’s way by opening up our churches when the virus is spreading death throughout black communities at an alarming rate. We have to wait for the medial professions, not the politicians, to let us know when it is safe to return to normal,” the coalition’s president, Bishop Elijah Hankerson, said in a statement.

Another black leader, pastor and activist Darryl Gray, agreed.

“Why should people who are already suffering disproportionately in so many other ways subject themselves to sickness and possible death?” Gray asked.

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Source: News Tribune