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Cornerstone Church Pastor Says He Will Defy State Rules To Limit Attendance

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Cornerstone Church Pastor Jim Franklin announced Wednesday that the church will be reopening Sunday, but will allow an attendance above the state's recommended limits.

A downtown Fresno Church said Wednesday it intends to defy Governor Gavin Newsom’s orders to limit attendance to 100 people or 25 percent capacity, depending on which is smaller.

Pastor Jim Franklin said Cornerstone Church will accommodate up to 350 people this Sunday, which is a quarter of what the church can hold, but far more than what the state allows. Franklin said the governor’s rules unfairly limit churches.

“Shopping malls are opening with hundreds of people in their facilities. Why has the church been placed under these types of restrictions of only allowing a hundred people?” said Franklin.

Franklin said the service on Sunday will be safer than going to retail stores.


“There will not be people milling around aisle to aisle as you see in stores,” said Franklin. “They will come in, have a seat that is socially distanced from the people around them.”

The church will be handing out masks, and taking reservations so leaders know when it’s at capacity. Franklin added that the church is joining a lawsuit against the state of California and the Fresno County Director of Public Health for infringing on religious freedom. 

In a media update Wednesday evening, Fresno County Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra commended Franklin for his passion and commitment to Cornerstone Church, and defended the statewide guidance. 

The attendance cap, Vohra said, is only in effect for 21 days, which is long enough for a potential outbreak to develop. 

“Keeping that number at 25 percent or 100 will allow us to detect outbreaks and hopefully contain them as early as possible, and then really go back and say, what do we need to adjust here?” said Vohra. 

Vohra said that he expects the state to increase the limit in three weeks. 


Laura Tsutsui was a reporter and producer for Valley Public Radio. She joined the station in 2017 as a news intern, and later worked as a production assistant and weekend host. Laura covered local issues ranging from politics to housing, and produced the weekly news program Valley Edition. She left the station in November 2020.
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