This Sunday is Easter, the holiest day of the year for Christians.
With most of the United States on lockdown amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the vast majority of churches are moving services online to avoid restrictions on public gatherings and unnecessary trips from home.
While some states have carved out exemptions for churches—and some evangelical churches have announced their refusal to obey stay-at-home-orders—in Kansas Democratic Governor Laura Kelly has made it clear that no gatherings should happen on Easter.
Don’t expect the most notorious church in Kansas to disobey Kelly’s order.
Topeka’s virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, which has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, doesn’t celebrate Easter, for starters.
The self-described “Old School Baptist Church” limits rituals to the Lord’s Supper.
“Easter is pagan idolatry,” Ben Phelps, grandson of Westboro founder Fred Phelps, tells Kansas City. “Jesus told us how to remember Him, and it is by the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. Not with bunnies, eggs, or other silliness. So we will not be celebrating Easter, either in person or virtually.”
However, Westboro will otherwise follow the governor’s orders and suspend in-person services until after the pandemic has passed.
“As far as whether we will follow her order otherwise, of course we will,” Phelps says, quoting scripture: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.”
Churches that defy local orders to avoid gatherings during the pandemic are not behaving Biblically, Phelps says, and are sinning in the eyes of God.
“There are only two times where it’s acceptable to disobey the civil authorities that you are subject to,” Phelps says. “If they order you to do something God told you not to do (see Daniel 3) [or] if they order you to not do something God told you to do (see Acts 5:29).”