This pastor urges churches nationwide to reopen in defiance of governors

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Kentucky pastor, joined by at least 50 other churches, is urging other religious leaders across the nation to "step up and roar" for the right to worship amid coronavirus shutdowns.

Brian Gibson, pastor of His Church, a megachurch with locations in Owensboro, Ky., and Amarillo, Texas, is calling for "Peaceably Gather Sunday" May 17 because it's not "reasonable" or "logical" that businesses like Walmart and Kroger can reopen while churches stay closed.

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"When did one hour on Sunday morning become the deadliest hour in America?" Gibson told "Fox & Friends First" this week. "We're talking about one hour a week and we're talking about our First Amendment rights."

Gibson, who is urging other leaders to join him by signing an online petition, said he had an event at His Church, but it was shut down by the health department.

"We felt like they'd already severely overstepped their bounds and come against our constitutional liberties," the pastor said. "I believe somebody has to stand up and act now. Every day that the church is not open, a little bit of liberty dies."

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Other megachurch pastors have already signed on to responsibly and safely reopen church doors, using guidelines like reducing occupancy, social distancing, dismissing attendees aisle by aisle, requiring staff to wear masks and gloves, and increasing sanitation.

First Liberty Institute, the nation's largest religious freedom law firm, is offering to help pastors or churches free of charge with any legal challenges.

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At least 11 states are suing to reopen ahead of the governor's schedule, including Kentucky, which is set for May 20, but a federal judge ruled in favor of churches to hold services last Friday after the state's attorney general joined a church's lawsuit.

“If social distancing is good enough for Home Depot and Kroger, it is good enough for in-person religious services which, unlike the foregoing, benefit from constitutional protection,” the judge wrote in the court's order.

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Gibson's movement is not alone.

A network of pastors in California have already told Fox News they plan to reopen May 31, with or without Gov. Gavin Newsom's approval, as well as churches in Illinois defying Gov. J.B. Pritzker's restrictions on in-person services.