Gov. Cooper’s office responds after federal judge temporarily blocks religious service restrictions

Coronavirus

RALEIGH, N.C. — Gov. Roy Cooper’s office responded Saturday afternoon after a federal judge blocked the restrictions on religious services the governor put in place amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A hearing was set for May 29 by Judge james C. Dever III, The News & Observer reports.

Ford Porter, Governor Roy Cooper’s spokesperson, responded to the court ruling on religious services during COVID-19:

“We don’t want indoor meetings to become hotspots for the virus and our health experts continue to warn that large groups sitting together inside for long periods of time are much more likely to cause the spread of COVID-19. While our office disagrees with the decision, we will not appeal, but instead urge houses of worship and their leaders to voluntarily follow public health guidance to keep their members safe.”

Several conservative Christian leaders filed the lawsuit against Gov. Roy Cooper and pushed for courts to throw out restrictions that are preventing indoor religious services. 

A Winston-Salem pastor and churches all over the state want to hold their church services inside of their buildings. But the governor’s Executive order is only allowing churches to hold their services outside in parking lots while practicing social distancing. 

“We’ve been out long enough, it’s time to get back,” said Pastor Ronnie Baity, who leads Berean Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. 

Fighting for change, Pastor Baity, Return America and People Baptist Church Inc. filed the lawsuit against Gov. Cooper claiming the state’s executive order infringes on the church’s first amendment rights. People from all over North Carolina attended a rally in agreement. 

Baity told FOX8 Thursday afternoon that he understands and takes this virus very seriously. Baity plans to incorporate social distancing practices and sanitizing in the church once they’re allowed to reopen. 

But not everyone like High Point Pastor Ray Campbell of First Emmanuel Baptist Church is ready to see congregants inside of his church.  

“The sanctuary is behind us, but the church is in our hearts,” Campbell said. 

Campbell takes the unknowns of the virus very seriously, especially because he shepherds an older African American congregation. 

“Through the fact that it is dealing with the African American communities more prevalent, I just feel that it’s safe for us, especially the African Americans, to be able to just enjoy one another but do it in a safe manner,” he said.

The lawsuit also makes mention of how churches should be able to gather like many other businesses.  

“Three weeks ago, we sent to the governor with the names of 200 pastors and churches asking him to allow us to operate with the same conditions that the public sector is operating under. I say public sector, and I’m saying Walmart, Lowe’s, abortion clinics, etc.,” Baity said. 

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