Around 50 people have been ordered to self-quarantine after attending an in-person Easter service at Maryville Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.
Pastor Jack Roberts had been warned to cease in-person gatherings "immediately" by the state. He defied orders and held the event on Sunday. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear had previously warned that he would order Kentucky State Police to record the number plates of those in attendance so that health officials could order them to quarantine for 14 days after the event.
"This is the only way we can ensure that your decision doesn't kill someone else," Beshear said Friday. He also warned that those in attendance could face a misdemeanor charge of violating the state's emergency order.
Some of the worshipers covered their license plate numbers in an attempt to avoid repercussions, though police were able to record their VIN instead.
Pastor Roberts told reporters that an unknown party had also placed nails in the church's driveway. When asked why he had defied the lockdown, he added: "Everybody has to do what they feel comfortable with."
While the pastor did not tell worshipers whether they should follow the quarantine order, some of those in attendance told reporters that they plan to defy it.
Some of the 50 people in attendance traveled from different states for the service. The Louisville Courier Journal spoke to Bevelyn Beatty and Edmee Chavannes, who had traveled from New Jersey.
"We refuse to not gather on Easter," Beatty said. "We had to go online and see who would be courageous enough to say ‘hey we’re having service, because (there's) a lot of scrutiny.”
“The Bible says greater is he that is in me than he that is in the world," Beatty added. "And the Bible also says that when you follow the Lord, those that follow him and those that believe in him, will be able to cast out demons, will be able to trample on serpents, scorpions, all of these things, and it won’t affect us. So technically, if a person has corona, they can come to me and I can lay hands on them and we can get rid of that corona. That’s the authority that we have in Christ.”
“So it was not a concern for me to catch it, nor am I going to give it to anyone.”
Chavannes was concerned that her rights are being violated and said that coronavirus had led to "a lot of the freedoms being surrendered."
"Quite frankly, we are the church," she said. "So being in a building for me personally, it’s not what matters for me the most. ... I’m a walking church.”
Seth Powell came from Dayton, Ohio, to "stand with these people."
"Not everyone has WiFi," he said. "There's a lot of homeless people that have to go to libraries to get on the computer and the libraries are closed. They don't have anywhere to go."
"I'm sad because this is very special," Powell added. "It's very special for a lot of people."
Gov. Beshear slammed the church in his Sunday update, specifically targeting the two women from New Jersey.
"The state that had over 3,000 cases that may be the new epicenter," Beshear said. "And because of this open invitation, even on a special day like today, just brought all of New Jersey's contacts into Kentucky."
Beshear said that the vast majority of churches had headed the state's order and that only eight defied it by holding Easter Sunday services.
Kentucky public health commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said that Robert's event could have dire consequences.
"At what point does our right to gather entitle us to have other people die as a direct result?" he asked.
The vast majority of Americans attended Easter services online, including California Congressman Eric Swalwell.
"Like many Americans, I wish I could attend tomorrow’s #Easter Sunday service in-person," Swalwell wrote. "But it’s just not safe. My church, #CornerstoneLivermore is streaming its service. I hope you’ll find a stream, too, and stay home. And may we all worship in-person together soon."
The best way to prevent contracting or spreading coronavirus is with thorough hand washing and social distancing. If you feel you may be experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, which include persistent cough (usually dry), fever, shortness of breath, and fatigue, please call your doctor before going to get tested. For comprehensive resources and updates, visit the CDC website. If you are experiencing anxiety about the virus, seek out mental health support from your provider or visit NAMI.org.