CAMDEN COUNTY, N.J. - Police showed up at the Bible Baptist Church in Clementon, New Jersey, as supporters gathered outside the church opening for in-person service Wednesday night. The reopening of the church is in defiance of the state's mitigation guidelines that prevent masses and other large gatherings from taking place.
Police told supporters that they were in violation of the state’s shutdown order. “With that being said also have a good night folks.” The supporters cheered and thanked the officers.
"We're not acting irresponsibly or recklessly. We have taken measures to ensure our facilities are safe," Pastor Andy Reese said. "We have a command from God's word and our loyalty to God's word runs deeper than our loyalty to the governor."
He adds his church has a constitutional right to gather and pray.
On Sunday, the church held service for more than 15 parishioners. Signs posted on church doors laid out social distancing guidelines that the parish believes allows churchgoers to safely worship during the coronavirus pandemic.
"Right now, there are a lot of people hurting emotionally, mentally, and we feel that we have a right, constitutionally, to meet to help our people," Pastor Reese said Sunday.
Gov. Phil Murphy relaxed significant restrictions last week as the Garden State tries to rebound from the economic blow the virus has inflicted. Nonessential businesses were given the leeway to provide curbside service, beaches began to reopen and elective surgeries can now resume.
New Jersey car and motorcycle dealers along with bike shops shuttered during the COVID-19 pandemic reopened for in-person sales on Wednesday.
As the second hardest-hit state in the nation finds its footing, an emphasis is still being placed on social distancing and preventative measures to thwart a spike in cases.
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