Sheriff Ronnie Fields and District Attorney Maureen Krueger chose recently what laws they wish to enforce and then bragged about it with press releases.

Last Friday, both Fields and Krueger issued separate statements saying they would not enforce Gov. Roy Cooper’s “stay at home” order as it relates to churches. The order effectively prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people except in businesses deemed “essential,” provided social distancing and other requirements are met.

“I believe with all my heart that with what we are facing in this world today, we need God in our lives now more than ever,” Fields said in his release. “As such, it is my personal belief that our people should be able to assemble and worship in the house of the Lord whenever they wish. Neither I nor any member of the Moore County Sheriff’s Office will interfere with or attempt to disrupt any worship service in this county.”

Said Krueger: “When secular activities are given greater deference and freedom than religious activities, such law is unconstitutional. Therefore, it is my opinion that the arrest or charge of a person for violating the governor’s order as it relates to religious worship is unconstitutional. In the event charges are brought, I can and will do what I believe my oath and the Constitution requires.”

A Failure of Faith

Churches had effectively been shuttered since March, most of their own choosing initially — before politics began to seep into and taint public health. Faith leaders took to the internet and broadcast Easter season services to their congregations, knowing full well that they could not risk exposing large gatherings to the highly contagious and largely unknown effects of the coronavirus.

But over the last few weeks, beginning on the fringes and then spreading, some small-church leaders and politicians seized upon the “reopening” theme. To them, a “stay at home” order was little more than a thinly veiled attempt by the “left” to undermine and weaken conservatives who closely align their faiths with their politics.

Mind you, Cooper’s order did not prohibit churches from holding services and worshiping. It just precluded gathering in large numbers. Granted, that turns the nature of church-as-community on its head. And for those used to celebrating a weekly communion, a digital service was not the same.

However, law enforcement officers are responsible for enforcing laws and maintaining order, not judging which measures are correct and which are not. Personal feelings — and political sensibilities — have no place.

Enforce All Laws Equally

Cooper’s “stay-at-home” order took effect March 30. If Krueger and Fields felt it was such an injustice and clearly unconstitutional, why did they not issue their statements in time for Easter services?

And why now? North Carolina could move to a “Phase 2” of reopening — in which churches could renew in-person services — by this weekend. This makes Krueger’s and Fields’ statements even more self-serving.

If Krueger or Fields suddenly felt like marijuana should be legal, like it is in several other states, could they say they choose not to enforce the current criminal laws on the books? Krueger’s and Fields’ statements were little more than political panderings that sound a dangerous note that enforcement of law and order is not equal in Moore County. Would they have taken these positions if Republican Pat McCrory were still governor? Doubtful.

As it was, a federal judge just a day later issued a temporary ruling lifting Cooper’s order in regard to churches, deeming it a constitutional violation.

That is why we have judges. Until a judge rules, though, law officers must uphold all laws and maintain order, not just the matters on which they concur or fall in line with their political affiliations.

(14) comments

Peyton Cook

Jim, perhaps we view mankind differently. As a Christian, I believe that my fellow human being is basically good. We believe that we should “do unto others as you would have others do unto you”. Also, the last six of the Ten Commandments are good standards for every individual to live by. Our Founding Fathers believed in a Superior being and that our rights are natural rights not bestowed by government. Unfortunately, there are individuals who do not abide by the Golden Rule. That’s why we have to have rules to punish bad behavior of one person on another. Even Jesus recognized that. I believe in the death penalty for the most heinous crime of taking another’s life.

Jim Tomashoff

I don't see where anything that you note above has anything to do with any Governor trying to reduce the number of people who will get sick and die from Covid-19 by requiring houses of worship to reduce the number of people inside at a given time. God seems perfectly ok with Covid infecting people while in Church and killing many of them afterward. And for what it's worth, I too believe in the death penalty for the crime of first degree murder. Indeed, it it were up to me there would be no alternative penalty for this crime. It is obscene to me that someone who kills an elderly person can be executed while the killer of 22 year old UNC Student Body President Eve Carson sits in jail for the rest of his life.

Mark Hayes

Peyton, once the virus enters through the doors of your church, I believe you will have a much different opinion as to the importance of prevention and prayer.

Sally Larson

I just love the way people want to throw around their demands to uphold the Constitution when it fits their needs. If you are that adamant about it then you must support all the parts of our Constitution like separation of church and state, equal rights, the right to have an abortion............ There's no cherry-picking to meet your selfish needs, it's all or nothing.

Step up and be participating members of our society and take some responsibility for your actions. This isn't all about YOU, it's about having some social responsibility to your family and neighbors. No one is taking away your freedom, you are being asked to be supportive and trustworthy in your actions for the good of the community, churches included. Just grow up and get over yourselves and stop whining.

William Dean

Where do you and other Democrats get off saying "Enforce All Laws Equally"? Let's go back about 11 years when Barack Obama came into office and immediately declared that his administration would not enforce laws that he did not think should he. Talking about the Marriage Laws and those barring people from holding certain jobs because of their sexual preforance. The laws were not enforced but thrown away until they could be changed by the CONGRESS as required by law. And now we fined that many members of Obama's administration took it upon themselves (allegedly) took it upon themselves to break many laws in an effort to keep a legally elected President from going into office. Wiretaps obtained under illegal warrants. Charges against Americans because of these illegal wiretaps. Peoples lives and fortunes destroyed because of the use of these illegal actions by FBI and others in Obama's administration.

President Trump was accused of trying to force a foreign country to do his bidding or lose American assistance. BUT we have abasoluted proof from Joe Biden, that he forced that same government to fire an investigator investigating Biden's son, or lose American money. Now that criminal thinks he should be president I think not and he should be arrested for his crimes to include sexual assault.

Peyton Cook

The Editorial is off base and insulting to your fellow citizens. Also the Governor cannot pass laws. He can issue orders, but not laws. Our church did not hold services until this past Sunday adhering to protocol, because of the low incidence of cases. And we had more than 10 attendees. And it shouldn’t have taken a judge to uphold Constitutional right.

Jim Tomashoff

Peyton writes: " shouldn’t have taken a judge to uphold Constitutional right." You have two Constitutional Rights, it seems to me, that govern a right to practice one's religion and attend Church. The first is absolute. I'm not aware of any serious Constitutional Lawyer/Scholar who would dispute that Americans can practice religion. What is not absolute are various religious practices if/when they come into conflict with societal laws and norms. Under nearly all circumstances I think most Americans would agree that one has the right to attend church services. But is that an absolute right? I think not. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say an individual has a right, under all circumstances, to attend church services with others. Governors have State Constitutional Authority, and hence a responsibility to keep his/her citizens safe whenever possible. Clearly, any Governor who permits and promotes that people closely pack together while a highly infectious and lethal viral pandemic is underway can reasonably be criticized, is seems to me. We know, not think, know, that people who have led and participated at large church services became infected with Covid-19 at these services and consequently died. A virus doesn't recognize the sanctity of a pulpit it seems.

Peyton Cook

I do not see where what I wrote is off base. Our church exercised caution until the numbers showed a very low number of cases. There were more than ten at our service this past Sunday and we all practiced social distancing. The Governor erred in arbitrarily setting a number. Those is indication that he doesn’t trust citizens and organizations from making rational decisions. Also the United States Constitution trumps State Constitutions. So you don’t have to go find a copy of the United States Constitution, I will quote the applicable part of Amendment I pertaining to religion It reads “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”

Jim Tomashoff

We're talking past each other. The virus has no respect for the Constitution. Preachers who opened their large in-house services put themselves and their flock at risk. They did so knowing the risks. People died as a result. People can attend services outdoors, or on-line. Instead you and others demand the "right" to attend church, putting a higher priority on this "right' but accepting none of the "responsibility" when, as a result, people died and will continue to die, needlessly.

William Dean

Please show facts that people died from attending church services. Percentage of died vs sick. People did fie from being confined to prisons and rest homes, they had no choice. But people have also died because prisoners in many states were released. Now people are being punished into bankruptcy because they obeyed a governors wishes that they not open their businesses. Others are not allowed to work and can not get put on unemployment after 8 weeks and many are looking at maybe another 6-8 weeks. before they might be able to work if then. Will they get money from unemployment before then ? Let's require all elected officials responsible for unemployment offices not be paid until 8 weeks after all people return to employment.

Jim Tomashoff

You wrote: "Please show facts that people died from attending church services."

OK, here you go:

Lynette Crosby

As a religious and spiritual person, frankly I was shocked by the sheriff’s uncalled for remarks about social distancing, enforcing the governor’s orders, and his truly unnecessary reveals as to his personal relationship with God. Why surprised? Because to this point Field’s welcome display of open and frequent community information regarding COVID was excellent and needed. I miss going to church but I don’t miss risking someone else’s life due to my personal needs. I think Jesus would have been Jesus with or without a crowd. Oh, and Ms. Krueger, seriously, are you as concerned about “the left’s” encroachment on Jews and Muslims? Hindus, agnostics, etc.? I think not. When are elected officials going to realize that when the win, they are on the same team with the rest of us? PS - the timing, you’re right is ludicrous?

Jim Tomashoff

As usual with Kent, his comment reflects his "rights," his "freedom," implicitly a repudiation of what he has called "the nanny state." No where does he acknowledge or indicate any "responsibility," he might have as an integral part of his citizenship. That's because he has never, not ever, acknowledged that he has any such responsibilities towards others. We have witnessed cases where preachers/priests insisted on holding services inside their places of worship resulting in the spread of Covid-19, which, in turn, killed some of these preachers/priests and service worshipers. And you know what people, Kent could care less.

Kent Misegades

Kudos to Fields and Krueger. Our Christian nation’s faith knows only one authority, God. Besides, Cooper’s edicts are illogical and irrational. One can shop daily in a big box store, or travel from NYC to play golf in Pinehurst, but you can’t attend your local church? It’s quite clear that the politics here are those from the left. Like their socialist ancestors, they use their manufactured crisis first to suppress religion, then they work on the other inalienable rights - speech, congregation, life, and property. Civil disobedience is always an option when our so-called leaders go too far.

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