In defiance of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s March 19 stay at home order, Bill Donahue organized a gathering at the Community Hall in Anza Sunday, May 10.
Social media erupted with support as well as harsh criticism for his plan when Donahue posted his intentions on Facebook recently.
Donahue attended the Riverside County Board of Supervisors meetings Tuesday, May 5, and Friday, May 8, speaking before the representatives regarding the lack of scientific verification for the use of masks. He also touched upon the unfairness of many social distancing requirements due to the coronavirus pandemic, such as no gatherings of more than 10 people and the ban on church assemblies. He questioned the constitutionality of the orders.
About 20 people were in attendance at the sermon Sunday. They did not wear a mask and were eager to hear Donahue’s message.
He offered his analysis of Romans 13:1-7 in relation to tyrannical governments.
“All of you must obey the government rulers,” he said, quoting the chapter. “Everyone who rules was given the power to rule by God. And all those who rule now were given that power by God. So anyone who is against the government is really against something God has commanded. Those who are against the government bring punishment on themselves. People who do right don’t have to fear the rulers. But those who do wrong must fear them.
“Do you want to be free from fearing them? Then do only what is right, and they will praise you. Rulers are God’s servants to help you. But if you do wrong, you have reason to be afraid. They
have the power to punish, and they will use it. They are God’s servants to punish those who do wrong. So you must obey the government, not just because you might be punished, but because you know it is the right thing to do. And this is why you pay taxes, too. Those rulers are working for God, and they give all their time to the work of ruling. Give everyone what you owe them. If you owe them any kind of tax, then pay it. Show respect to those you should respect. And show honor to those you should honor,” he said.
Many biblical scholars have interpreted Romans 13 as teaching that Christians should honor the institution of government, but not necessarily the individuals in power.
Donahue said that many preachers before the American Revolution claimed that when these passages were considered in that context, that it did not indicate that they should submit to tyrannical leaders.
“The colonists argued that it was the king of England who was in violation of Scripture,” Donahue said. “Therefore, it was a Christian’s duty to resist him. As Mayhew said in 1750, ‘Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.’”
People claimed that Donahue was encouraging people to attend the sermon with firearms, and he responded to that claim when asked.
“While I am engaged in peaceful civil disobedience, I have spoken out against those who are calling for an armed revolt,” he said.
“As Christians we are not duty bound to submit to tyranny,” he said. “We have those in our own culture who almost worship government and its power. They look to it as their provider, caretaker, protector, etc. It is a cultlike worship similar to the Cult of Caesar, in Paul’s day. Yet Paul spoke boldly against the worship of anything but God. Therefore, his words cannot be used to support the idea that we should submit to tyranny.”
Since the stay-at-home order was issued to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the state, more than 4 million people have been out of work in California. Currently, California is beginning the process of opening back up in stages. The phase that could reopen salons, gyms, movie theaters and in-person church services could be months away.
Diane Sieker can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.