On Saturday, Business Insider reported that a church in Oregon is planning to move forward with a large, in-person Mother's Day service — even though the church has been linked to dozens of cases of COVID-19.
"According to data published on May 5 by the Oregon Health Authority, 74 people associated with the People's Church in the city of Salem contracted COVID-19 between April 6 and April 29," reported Will Martin. "During that time the church has continued to hold in-person services, according to videos and photos posted on its Facebook page. In a number of videos, worshippers can be seen without masks and not observing social distancing. The church's website indicates in-person services and events will include Mother's Day services scheduled for Sunday, AP reported."
People's Church was one of 21 Christian churches, assisted by multiple state lawmakers, that sued Oregon Gov. Kate Brown in May of last year, seeking to force the lifting of orders restricting in-person church services as an infringement of religious liberty. That lawsuit was unsuccessful, although in recent months the U.S. Supreme Court has taken a harder line against restrictions on religious gatherings, enabled by the appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
The church appears to be aware that its Mother's Day service poses a health risk.
"In a video posted to Facebook on April 15, one of the church's pastors, Tom Murray, encouraged anyone who has a 'contagious illness' to stay home, while emphasising that the church remains open. In the video, he also stressed the church's hygiene measures, including frequent cleaning," said the report. "'If you or someone in your household is sick with a contagious illness, please seek the medical attention you need. Stay home, watch online, and return when you are feeling better,' he said. 'We encourage those who choose to attend in person to take advantage of physical distancing,' he added. In the video, Murray does not mention COVID-19 by name, but does talk about an 'increase in positive tests.'"