Craven County Sheriff won’t interfere with indoor church services

Craven County Sheriff won’t interfere with indoor church services
Craven County Sheriff Chip Hughes (Source: WITN)

CRAVEN COUNTY, NC (WITN) - At least one Eastern Carolina sheriff says he will not “Interfere or prevent” people from going to church.

Craven County Sheriff Chip Hughes put out that statement late Wednesday as the state remains in phase 1 of the reopening process.

"I believe that if social distancing and other guidelines are good enough to allow big box stores to operate, it should be good enough for in person church services," said Hughes.

Gov. Roy Cooper has come under criticism for maintaining the 10-people rule for in-door church services during phase 1.

The sheriff said he feels churches would be more inclined to implement safety guidelines for their members than businesses would for their customers.

Hughes calls the disparity between churches and businesses "inconsistent, unfair, and quite frankly, morally wrong."

Hughes' statement comes as the NC Sheriff's Association sent a resolution to the Governor to allow indoor worship services.

We have reached out to Governor Cooper's office for comment.

Here is the full statement from Sheriff Hughes:

Our pastors and church leaders have been patient and have adhered to government authority thus far regarding the Governor's restrictions on holding indoor worship services.

Church families are law abiding citizens, salt of the earth people that should be able to stand in unison to protect our First Amendment rights to "assemble peaceably" and exercise our freedom of worship.

Retail businesses are allowed to operate daily under rules; however, church goers have been unable to go to church once a week which is inconsistent, unfair, and quite frankly, morally wrong. All we're asking the Governor to do is allow indoor worship services with reasonable restrictions, somewhat similar to local retail businesses.

I believe that if social distancing and other guidelines are good enough to allow big box stores to operate, it should be good enough for in person church services. It's as through churches have been treated differently. For example, currently worship services are limited in-doors to 10 people, but 50 people can utilize the same space for a funeral.

I think our pastors and church leaders would be more inclined to implement safety guidelines for their brothers and sisters than businesses do for their customers. Why can’t churches be trusted to open their doors and take precautions to protect their people’s health and well-being?

As Sheriff of Craven County, the deputies and I took an oath that we would endeavor to support, maintain, and defend the Constitution for the people of this country. As long as I am Sheriff, neither my deputies nor I will forego that oath and interfere or prevent church goers to peaceably assemble and exercise their constitutional right to freely worship.

Craven County Sheriff

Chip HughesAs Sheriff of Craven County, the deputies and I took an oath that we would endeavor to support, maintain, and defend the Constitution for the people of this country. As long as I am Sheriff, neither my deputies nor I will forego that oath and interfere or prevent church goers to peaceably assemble and exercise their constitutional right to freely worship.

Craven County Sheriff

Chip Hughes

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