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Federal Judge Blocks North Carolina Governor's Restrictions on Church Services

AP Photo/Cliff Owen

On Saturday, a federal judge temporarily blocked North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's restrictions on indoor religious services during the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic. In a recent statewide stay-at-home order aimed at reopening the state, religious services were instructed to be held "outdoors unless impossible." 

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Judge James C. Dever III sided with two Baptist churches who argued Gov. Cooper's restrictions on indoor church services violate their rights to worship and treat churches differently than secular entities like retailers. 

While Dever believes the governor has acted in good faith, the judge also finds restrictions applied to one group and not another burden religious freedom and do little to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the judge wrote in a 22-page order

"The record, at this admittedly early stage of the case, reveals that the Governor appears to trust citizens to perform non-religious activities indoors (such as shopping or working or selling merchandise) but does not trust them to do the same when they worship indoors together," Judge Dever wrote in his order. 

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A spokesman for the governor, Ford Peter, said the governor will not appeal the decision despite disagreeing with the judge's ruling, according to The Washington Times. Judge Dever set the next hearing for May 29.

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