NC sheriff says he won't enforce COVID-19 indoor church rules
“As long as I’m Sheriff, my deputies nor I will interfere or prevent church goers to exercise their constitutional right to freely worship. Before I would do that, I would lay down my badge and go home”
Jonathan M. Alexander
The News and Observer
JOHNSTON COUNTY, N.C. — Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell said neither he nor his deputies will prevent churches and churchgoers from assembling indoors during the coronavirus pandemic.
Under Phase One of Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order to ease statewide stay-at-home restrictions, places of worship are allowed to hold socially distanced services. However, services must take place outside if they exceed the 10-person limit.
“We know that inside, it is much more likely than you’re going to transmit this virus, particularly when you’re sitting or standing in one place for a long time,” Cooper said Tuesday in his daily press briefing, adding that “I miss in-person church services very much myself.”
In a letter Wednesday afternoon sent to media outlets, including The News & Observer, Bizzelll wrote that churches should be allowed to operate in Phase One since retail businesses are allowed to, calling it “unfair” and “morally wrong.”
Senate republicans and the N.C. Sheriff’s Association have been vocal in their call for specific guidance for indoor church services. Both groups wrote letters and resolutions over the past week seeking clarification for language in Cooper’s order, The News & Observer reported.
“As long as I’m Sheriff, my deputies nor I will forgo that oath and interfere or prevent church goers to peaceably assemble and exercise their constitutional right to freely worship,” Bizzell wrote. “Before I would do that, I would lay down my badge and go home! NOW, LET’S HAVE CHURCH!”