Kentucky police officers on Sunday wrote down the license plate numbers of roughly 50 cars parked outside a church where an in-person Easter service took place in defiance of the state’s lockdown orders to fight the spread of the coronavirus.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said on Friday that residents who flout the stay-at-home order must self-quarantine for 14 days, warning that authorities would record the license plates of those who attend in-person Easter services or other mass gatherings and follow up with them.
Shortly before Maryville Baptist Church’s Easter service, piles of nails appeared to be intentionally dumped in the parking lot of the church, the Courier-Journal reported.
The church’s pastor, Rev. Jack Roberts, has previously disregarded the state ban on gatherings, saying that he “believed in the spiritual necessity of church before COVID-19. After COVID-19, we don’t have fewer spiritual crises; we have more.” He also asserted that he has a constitutional right to hold services and accused the governor of “infringing on the church’s rights.”
Roberts covered his license plate on Sunday, as did several members of his congregation, but state troopers took down their vehicle identification numbers instead, the Journal reported.
Sgt. Josh Lawson of the Kentucky State Police said that there have been no additional violations of the statewide order, noting that several drive-in services that took place around the state “were specifically mentioned by the governor as being allowed.”
“This is a time and weekend, a whole week for multiple faiths, that is about faith. It’s about knowing we have faced as people—as Christians, as Jews, as members of many faiths—many difficult, dark times, and we have prevailed,” Gov. Beshear said on Friday. “We know that the weeks or the months ahead will be difficult. We know that there are going to be tougher days before there are easier days.”
Beshear also said that anyone who holds in-person Easter services would be charged with a misdemeanor violation of the governor’s statewide order.
With at least 316 million Americans under orders to stay at home to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, governors have been at odds with some religious leaders who were defiant in their determination to celebrate Easter with their congregations.
Reverend Tony Spell, a pastor of the evangelical Life Tabernacle Church in Louisiana, told Reuters that “Satan and a virus will not stop us,” and vowed to hold his service on Sunday despite Gov. John Bel Edwards’ statewide stay-at-home order. The pastor said he expected over 2,000 worshippers to attend.
“We are not afraid. We are called by God to stand against the Antichrist creeping into America’s borders. We will spread the Gospel,” Spell told Reuters.
Central Police Department Chief Roger Corcoran told The Washington Post that he waited outside the megachurch and said that roughly 330 people attended Spell’s Sunday service. “No one has advised him he couldn’t hold church,” Corcoran reportedly said. “It’s been suggested he do it a different way, just like every other church in the nation, by social media and live stream.”