by WorldTribune Staff, May 17, 2020
A federal judge on Saturday blocked Democratic North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s coronavirus lockdown order which essentially prohibited most churches from holding indoor services.
Judge James C. Dever III made the ruling days after two Baptist churches, a minister and a Christian revival group filed a federal lawsuit seeking to immediately block enforcement of rules covering religious services within Cooper’s executive orders, Associated Press reported.
The judge agreed that Cooper’s order violated the religious groups’ rights to worship freely and treated churches differently from retailers and other secular activities.
Cooper’s order prevented most faith organizations from holding indoor services attended by more than 10 people.
Judge Dever wrote in a 22-page order granting the plaintiffs’ emergency motion for a temporary restraining order:
“The assembly for religious worship provisions in (Executive Order) 138 starkly illustrate the extent to which religious entities and individuals are not subject to neutral or generally applicable law. The record, at this admittedly early stage of the case, reveals that the Governor appears to trust citizens to perform non-religious activities indoors (such as shopping or working or selling merchandise) but does not trust them to do the same when they worship indoors together.”
Cooper’s spokesman, Ford Porter, said the governor’s office disagrees with the decision but will not appeal it.
“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,” Porter said in a statement.
A recent poll by The University of Chicago Divinity School and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that Democrats are far more supportive of coronavirus lockdown orders which violate citizens’ freedom of religion.
The poll found 77 percent of Democrats were fine with banning in-person religious services, while just 21 percent were against. But, the poll found, even a majority of Republicans supported banning in-person religious services, but by a much smaller margin of 51 to 49 percent.