by Brenée Goforth
Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
On Thursday, May 14, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Governor Roy Cooper’s executive order establishing social distancing guidelines aimed to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Carolina Journal’s Lyndsay Marchello writes:
A collection of churches filed a federal lawsuit Thursday, May 14, challenging Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order banning mass gatherings, a move that has severely limited indoor worship services…
The lawsuit comes as legislative Republicans have criticized Cooper over how his executive orders have affected religious activities… Dr. David Gibbs Jr., a lawyer with the Christian Law Association, is representing the group in the lawsuit.
Marchello explains Gov. Cooper’s executive order:
Under his most recent order, mass gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited, including most indoor church services. Churches can hold services outside so long as social distancing is practiced. For funerals, no more than 50 people are allowed inside a church.
A protest in downtown Raleigh accompanied the lawsuit. Marchello writes:
Hundreds of people gathered in downtown Raleigh for a rally demanding churches be allowed to operate similar to big-box retailers…
The order is an example of content-based restriction on the free exercise of religion, and it’s unconstitutional, Senate Republicans say in a news release.
Churches should be allowed to enjoy the same freedoms that the business world is enjoying, [Ron Baity, president of Return America] told rally-goers.
The protest has several supporters in the state legislature. Marchello writes:
Ron Baity, president of Return America, a nonprofit religious organization, led the rally. He was joined by several House Republicans, including Reps. Michael Speciale, R-Craven; Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus; Jeffrey McNeely, R-Iredell; Steve Jarvis, R-Davidson; Keith Kidwell, R-Beaufort; Larry Potts, R-Davidson, Rep. Phil Shepard, R-Onslow, and Jerry Carter, R-Rockingham.