News and Commentary

Northam Discourages Attending Church: ‘Don’t Have To Sit In Church Pew For God To Hear Your Prayers’
RICHMOND, VA - JUNE 04: Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) speaks during a news conference on June 4, 2020 in Richmond, Virginia. Gov. Northam and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney announced plans to take down a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue.
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Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam ignited controversy Thursday with remarks he made during a COVID-19 press conference about people who want to attend church this holiday season.

While announcing new crackdown measures aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19, Northam said on the matter of gathering in a place of worship:

Now, I’d like to take a moment to talk about our faith communities. This is a holy time for multiple faith traditions. Tonight, as a matter of fact, is the first night of Hanukkah, Christmas is two weeks away. The holidays are typically times of joy and community. We gather together, we celebrate our faith, and we celebrate with family. But this year we need to think about what is truly the most important thing. Is it the worship or the building? For me, God is wherever you are. You don’t have to sit in the church pew for God to hear your prayers.

So I strongly call on our faith leaders to lead the way and set an example for their members. Worship with a mask on is still worship, worship outside or worship online is still worship. I can’t remind Virginians enough how serious this virus is and as I call on our faith leaders to set the example, I also hope that our local leaders across the commonwealth will do the same, many already have. We have seen so many people who didn’t fully realize how dangerous this disease was until they experienced it themselves.


Northam’s remarks generated a wide range of responses online.

Commentator Mollie Hemingway: “What a theologically illiterate comment on the essential nature of corporate worship.”

Former Trump campaign adviser Mercedes Schlapp: “Northam is clueless and unsympathetic. It is hard enough to deal with the pandemic and then have a governor who shows little respect and lack of understand for people of faith.”

Political strategist Arthur Schwartz: “Governor Blackface Klanrobes lectures his constituents on when and where they should pray.”

Journalist David Harsanyi: “Don’t Catholics, in particular, need to be in Church to receive etc? Jews, I know, need a minyan. What’s more important, though, is that it’s none of this guy’s business.”

Commentator Allie Beth Stuckey: “Governor Northam has no understanding of Christianity, and, thankfully, he has no authority over it either.”

Rand Paul adviser Doug Stafford: “And I don’t need the governor to tell me how to worship God, thank you.”

Analyst Rebeccah Heinrichs: “Christians like me and my own fellow congregants have a deeply held belief that the church is the assembly of the faithful- the *assembly.* It’s not up to the government to tell me what church is. In fact, they can’t.”


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