• 70°

Judge blocks governor’s virus-related orders on churches

A federal judge in North Carolina on Saturday sided with some Christian leaders and blocked the enforcement of restrictions that Gov. Roy Cooper ordered affecting indoor religious services during the coronavirus pandemic.

The order from Judge James C. Dever III came 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 the Democratic governor’s executive orders. Dever agreed with the plaintiffs, who argued that the limits violate their rights to worship freely and treat churches differently from retailers and other secular activities.

Cooper’s latest order still largely prevented most faith organizations from holding indoor services attended by more than 10 people. His office had said the newest order stating permitted services may “take place outdoors unless impossible” carries only a narrow exception, such as when religious activities dictate they occur indoors with more people.

Under the first step of Cooper’s three-phase plan for reopening now underway, most businesses can open doors provided the number of people inside doesn’t exceed 50% of the building’s fire code capacity.

Dever said he does not doubt that Cooper “is acting in good faith” to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus but the restrictions applied to one group and not another do little to help the goal and burden religious freedom. He said people’s “instinct for self-survival is strong” and trusts that worshippers and their leaders will look after each other “while exercising their free rights” just as they do during nonreligious activities.

“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,” Dever wrote in a 22-page order granting the plaintiffs’ emergency motion for a temporary restraining order. “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. He added the office is urging churches to voluntarily follow public health directives.

READ ABOUT MORE NEWS HERE.

RECENT HEADLINES:

Two fatalities reported in Kill Devil Hills fire

Tropical Storm Arthur forms, first named storm of season

News

Hatteras Island firefighters battle Wednesday evening blaze in Avon

Lifestyles

All kinds of fishing going on

Lifestyles

NC State Fair: Vaccinations encouraged, not required

Crime

North Carolina man found in street with gunshot wounds dies

Lifestyles

Outer Banks Community Foundation awards $29,000 in grants to five nonprofits

Business

Miles Daniels named to Currituck Chamber Board of Directors

News

Public comment open for project to repair the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, surrounding landscape

Crime

North Carolina man charged with child abuse after 4-year-old hospitalized with head injury

Crime

North Carolina man sentenced to 10 years in prison for stealing ammunition, firearms

Crime

State Court of Appeals panel upholds murder conviction of North Carolina man

News

Dare school board hears public comments questioning masks; Farrelly reports quarantine numbers are falling

Currituck

Currituck commissioners implore drivers to exercise caution in school zones

Crime

North Carolina man charged in fatal shooting of son-in-law

News

In Kill Devil Hills, $3 million street and drainage improvement project to begin in fall

News

Speed limits increased on NC 12; night driving in place at CHNS

Crime

Police: North Carolina man found shot to death in front yard

Crime

North Carolina man sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for methamphetamine, firearm charges

Lifestyles

Dare CYP seeks community support for diaper drives

News

DMF schedules estuarine striped bass plan advisory committee workshop

News

North Carolina unemployment rate falls to 4.3% in August

Crime

North Carolina woman fatally shot, then hit by car

News

Two men killed, woman injured in head-on collision in North Carolina

News

Marc Basnight’s contributions to North Carolina to be recognized at special Senate floor meeting

News

North Carolina nurse wins $216,614 Cash 5 jackpot first time playing