Local pastor told he can’t hold drive-in church service

Moscow, Idaho — “The restrictions put in place by Governor Little and Mayor Lambert are overly burdensome,” Rev. Jonathon Krenz wrote on April 17 in an email to Moscow Chief Police James Fry. 

Rev. Krenz, pastor of Augustana Lutheran Church in Moscow, was told that he could not hold a drive-in church service nor do the Lord’s Supper. 

Rev. Krenz reached out to Police Chief James Fry over email on April 16. 

Rev. Jonathon Krenz holding online services for his congregation
Rev. Jonathon Krenz holding online services for his congregation

Krenz asked the chief: “Can Moscow congregations now offer drive-in services and in-car Communion? Would your officers judge such a scenario to be in violation of the order, and if so, how would they enforce that?”

Krenz further explained, “The restrictions put in place by Governor Little and Mayor Lambert are overly burdensome, particularly on Churches, and I believe they are unconstitutional. I am reaching out to you as an expression of good faith. We are willing to work with authorities on all levels to find creative ways of assuring the safety of all concerned while preserving our right to the free exercise of our religion. Please receive this as a friendly overture. We do not want to break any laws or put anyone in danger, but our freedom must be restored, someway, somehow.”

Krenz closed the email, saying, “We at Augustana Lutheran Church in Moscow pray for you and your officers continually. My personal prayers are with you daily.”

Krenz’s email exchange with Chief Fry is part of an Exhibit in a lawsuit that was filed against Brad Little and Dave Jeppesen on April 30. 

In Exhibit D, Rev. Krenz writes “I was deeply concerned with the Stay-Home Order because churches and pastoral work are excluded from the definition of ‘essential business.’”

Krenz writes, “Chief Fry eventually confirmed that my initial read of the order was correct: we were outright prohibited from observing the Mass on Sundays and other Feast Days as we normally would, or administering any of the Sacraments.”

Krenz suggested several alternate service options to meet the state requirements. 

One option was to have families gather in his own driveway spaced six feet apart. Another option was to have a few cars circled around him for prayer, preaching, and communion. Everyone would remain in their cars. Krenz also explained that he would wear a mask and gloves and he said no one would leave their cars. 

Krenz even suggested a food delivery option. He would drive to individual congregants’ homes, read scripture, and then offer communion to them on their front steps. Krenz said, “In other words, just as restaurants can stay open under the Stay-Home Order if they only serve takeout and delivery, perhaps my church can stay open by me delivering it, so to speak, to my parishioners at home.”

Krenz says, “Chief Fry appeared to give each of my proposals a great deal of consideration before telling me each one would be in violation of the order.”

Chief Fry’s final response to Krenz included Gov. Little’s order: 

“Question: Are drive‐in theaters and drive-in church services allowed?

Answer: Yes, as long as Social Distancing Requirements are followed at all times. Participants should avoid leaving the vehicle, vehicle occupants should be limited to household members, and common facilities such as, concessions and restrooms should be avoided. Transactions and reservations should be handled online or over the phone.”

Fry then wrote, “Based on the Governor Little’s order, the scenarios you posed would be a violation of the Governor’s Amended Stay‐Home Order. As you know, the intent of the Order is to ensure the maximum number of people self‐isolate in their places of residence to the maximum extent feasible to slow the transmission of COVID‐19.”

Chief Fry was contacted about this article but declined to comment on the basis of the advice of legal counsel. 

Rev. Krenz concludes the exhibit saying, “Because of the governor’s Stay-Home Order, I am unable to fulfill my vocation of pastor without risking arrest, fine, and imprisonment. I have one adult awaiting Holy Baptism, another adult awaiting Confirmation and First Communion, and five children awaiting Confirmation and First Communion. I cannot legally serve them until we are allowed to congregate. In addition, I have shut-ins in very frail health who have not had a visit from their pastor or Communion in over a month, and I have a congregation full of members hungering and thirsting for the Lord’s Supper and the mutual conversation and consolation of brothers and sisters in Christ congregating in their freedom to assemble peacefully.”

The lawsuit with Krenz’s testimony was filed by The Macpherson Group and can be found at this website.

Rev. Krenz contacted us and wanted to add the following note to this article.

“I would like to clarify one thing with all concerned: Chief Fry went out of his way to be very helpful to me. He is a man of honor and a true public servant. I disagree with his conclusions, but in no way do I desire to portray him as an antagonist or adversary, nor do I blame him for the Governor’s order.”

– Rev. Jonathon Krenz

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