An Arkansas church intends to hold church services despite recommendations from state officials to limit gatherings as part of the fight against the coronavirus.
Awaken Church, in Jonesboro, vowed in a Facebook post to continue holding services in defiance of a Health Department directive banning gatherings of 10 or more, and after churches in other parts of the country were the source of community outbreaks, reported Newsweek.
"Jesus died with COVID-19 so that you didn't have to bear it," reads the church's Facebook post.
"The first death of Covid 19 actually happened 2000 years ago," the post continues. "The Bible tells us that Jesus took on every sin, sickness and every disease...Jesus bore it so you wouldn’t have to. Salvation provided forgiveness and healing...if you’ll believe it, you can receive it!"
The church insisted in a previous post that it would follow safe practices recommended by the Centers of Disease Control, but said that canceling services would violate their religious beliefs.
"For us to not have services due to a virus would be for us to go against our extremely strong convictions of the power of God to protect and the power of God to heal," the post reads. "Jesus knew the world He was sending us into contained sickness and disease. Instead of telling us to retreat from sickness, He told us to go into the world and to heal the sick."
Chad Gonzales, the church's lead pastor, said the decision to continue service was "gut-wrenching" and not made lightly, and he would have complied if the government required cancellations.
Arkansas remains one of only five states, and the only one left in the South, without a stay-at-home order active in any areas.