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Mayor Faulconer and religious leaders urge San Diegans to celebrate Passover, Easter from home

Several churches and synagogues have planned online services for the weekend to allow worshippers to practice social distancing.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer gathered with local religious leaders Friday to urge San Diegans to celebrate Easter and Passover from home in order to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

Stay-at-home orders will be strictly enforced on Easter Sunday, said Faulconer, who added that he believed the majority of San Diego faith organizations have adapted to the public health orders despite their impact on the holidays.

"Those traditions, of course, will be different this year, and they must be different to help keep everyone safe," Faulconer said. "COVID-19 is an equal opportunity disease that is affecting people across the globe regardless of race or religion."

Pastor Miles McPherson of Rock Church said at the City Hall news conference worshippers should focus on the meaning of Easter rather than the physical limitations caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Rabbi Devorah Marcus of Temple Emanu-El said her synagogue, like congregations of various faiths, has been streaming its services from an empty room featuring just the leader.

"At the beginning of this process, it definitely felt strange, but we have all found new ways to connect more deeply across all of the electronic media and to feel closer than ever," Marcus said.

Marcus said her congregation was referring to the current times as "sacred distancing" rather than social distancing, "which implies loneliness and isolation."

Preparations for online religious services come as several churches across the nation contend their local public health orders restricting religious public gatherings are unconstitutional.

On Friday, the Campo-based Abiding Place Ministries was denied a motion for a temporary restraining order against San Diego County's public health order in order to hold an Easter Sunday service.

The county advised church leaders they could stream their Easter service online, but said church members must stay at home.

The Cross Culture Christian Center in Lodi in the San Joaquin Valley has drawn national attention for not heeding directives against public gatherings.

The church's landlord recently changed the building's locks, unbeknownst to its pastor, Jon Duncan, who said in a televised interview that, "We don't believe a virus cancels the First Amendment."

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