Local clergy are calling out Lancaster County officials who on Friday moved the county into the “yellow” phase of Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan to reopen the state without his approval.
The Republican officials made the move despite Wolf previously extending the stay-at-home order in counties including Lancaster to at least June 4.
In an open letter to the Lancaster County commissioners, the religious leaders said they were “deeply concerned” that some officials unilaterally announced a partial reopening in defiance of Wolf’s orders.
“Civil disobedience is a last-resort tactic, to be engaged in after thorough deliberation when all other avenues of moral and legal persuasion have failed,” the letter said, and they are not convinced those conditions have been met.
The letter targeted Republican leaders who sent a letter to Wolf on Mother’s Day notifying him the county was moving from the “red” phase to yellow on Friday. The county has been in the red phase since March 27.
The letter to Wolf was signed by 13 Republican federal, state and county elected officials, including commissioners Josh Parsons and Ray D’Agostino. Commissioner Craig Lehman, a Democrat, did not sign the letter.
“If the county’s Republican leadership defy the duly-elected Democratic governor’s state of emergency, can each municipality’s leaders make their own rules, as well?” the clergy letter to the commissioners said.
The religious leaders are associated with Power Interfaith, a group of congregations “committed to the work of bringing about justice here and now.”
The clergy wrote they share concerns about lack of transparency in the state’s data, and for the economic health of the community.
They also wrote that people in their congregations have had trouble getting tested even if they had COVID-19 symptoms or were exposed to a known case, and that first responders and grocery workers they know are concerned the partial reopening “may send the wrong signal, encouraging people to abandon sensible measures, like wearing masks, that protect workers.”
“We expect our governmental leaders to build consensus rather than provoke conflict,” the letter said. “Too often our neighbors prioritize individual freedom over community well-being. Our faith traditions embrace the rights of individuals within the context of community.”
The letter was signed by Pastor Matthew Lenahan of Zion Lutheran Church, the Rev. Edward Bailey of Bethel AME Church, Rabbi Jack Paskoff of Congregation Shaarai Shomayim and the Rev. Jennifer Mattson of St. Thomas Episcopal Church. [After this story and the accompanying letter were initially published, the group said that version did not include all the signers of the letter; the updated version showing 11 additional signers is now below.]