SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KRON) — More than a thousand faith leaders across the state are prepared to defy Governor Gavin Newsom’s order and hold in-person religious services next Sunday.

Planning is underway for pastors across California, preparing to hold their first in-person services in two months.

A group of 1,200 pastors signed a declaration, deeming themselves essential with an agreement to open up their congregations May 31.

The attorney representing them, Robert Tyler, says because some pastors lead multiple churches,  an estimated 3,000 houses of worship will move sooner than the state wants them to.

“It’s easy for people to say you’re looking for a legal fight, you’re looking to declare your rights. That’s not what’s happening here,” Tyler said. “The secondary effects are so enormous, people are dying, people are committing suicide, people are depressed, theres’ anxiety, they’re falling back on opioids and alcoholism. These pastors are simply saying we have to get back to what we’re called to do.”

The declaration comes as the U.S. Department of Justice this week said California’s order puts an unfair burden on churches.

In his most recent update, Governor Gavin Newsom said his administration was working with faith leaders to come up with new safety guidelines for places of worship amid the pandemic.

Newsom has said the state is weeks away from reopening for in-person services.

But critics say many don’t want to wait that long.

“So many of them are looking at standards saying, we might only have 25% of total occupancy and have multiple services so there’s social distancing,” Tyler said. “There will be a lot of efforts made to protect health and safety.”

As of Thursday, Newsom’s office didn’t directly comment or respond to the group’s letter and declaration.

Group leaders say they would like to work more collaboratively with the governor.

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