Judge’s ruling lifts NC restrictions on religious services amid COVID-19 pandemic

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A judge has temporarily allowed worship services inside North Carolina churches after a ruling Saturday against Gov. Roy Cooper’s COVID-19 executive order regarding worshiping inside.

Religious leaders filed a lawsuit Thursday that said Cooper’s COVID-19 order violates their constitutional rights. A judge heard the case Friday afternoon and an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order against Cooper’s executive order was granted Saturday afternoon.

Dr. Ron Baity of Return America filed the suit. The group has argued that it’s wrong for the governor to allow stores to reopen at 50 percent capacity but not allow houses of worship to do the same.

“There was one standard for the church and another standard for the funeral home, another standard for businesses and the malls, etc. and it wasn’t right,” said Baity, who is also the pastor of Berean Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. “So as of now, all churches can go back indoors. This was a victory for all of North Carolina — not just our church.”

RELATED: Click here to read the judge’s order issued Saturday afternoon

Baity tells CBS17 he won’t hold indoor services at his church until next Sunday, when he has thermometors and supplies to disinfect.

He’s cautioning others to do the same, adding, “We go back not in a haphazard way. We go back in a very sanitary way, we make sure it’s safe for our members.”

Not every church plans on opening its doors to members just yet. The lead pastor at Fellowship Raleigh is taking a note from the Bible — and having patience.

“We’re concerned about what the Governor is saying, but we’re just as concerned about the coronavirus,” said lead pastor, Matt Schoofield. “We’re gonna have online services, an outdoor service next week and we’re gonna keep watching and be patient. Our church isn’t closed. Our church is still open, we’re just not having these big gatherings of people.”

Cooper’s office said that he disagreed with a court ruling Saturday afternoon about allowing worship services inside churches.

“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,” a statement from Cooper’s office said. 

“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,” Cooper’s statement also said.

The full court case will be heard on May 29 at 10 a.m.

More headlines from CBS17.com:

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