CHARLOTTE – As of Wednesday, a mask warrant is in effect for places of worship in Mecklenburg County. The county mask rule has so far excluded churches, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship.
When Channel 9 checked with some local churches earlier this month, they said they already demanded masks inside. For those who haven’t, they are now required by the county.
The mandate requires the wearing of masks indoors for all religious services.
When the warrant was announced earlier this month, Freedom House Church pastor Penny Maxwell announced on social media that their church would not be following the warrant and their lawyers were ready.
âWe’re not going to say to people, ‘You have to worship covered mouth and face,’ she said.
In a letter to Channel 9, a spokesperson said masks would remain optional, but did not say whether they would take legal action.
The county has a clause that states that if the county loses a lawsuit over part of the warrant, the entire warrant would not be dismissed, only the parts relevant to the lawsuit.
James Howell, the senior pastor at Myers Park Methodist Church in Charlotte, told Channel 9 that the mask rule won’t change much for his congregation.
âWhen the pandemic fell we were totally virtual for months and then came back in person – masked,â he said. “It’s an abundance of caution, of course.”
Many churches have said they prioritize safety. At the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, leaders told Channel 9 they were postponing any in-person service until cases of COVID abate. And even then the church will demand masks – regardless of the mandate.
On Tuesday, Gov. Roy Cooper said he plans to contact all religious leaders in the state to ask them to encourage church members to get vaccinated and to fight the spread of disinformation.
âReligious leaders from all religious backgrounds can be trusted figures in their communities,â Cooper said. âTheir work can go a long way in encouraging members of their congregations to talk to doctors and understand that these vaccines are safe and effective. “
Howell said keeping up with the warrant is part of the job.
âWe have to be good citizens. We are not smarter than anyone, âhe said.
This mask mandate is an extension of the requirement already in place in the county of Mecklenburg for businesses and other buildings.
County health officials have said masking rules can be relaxed once the COVID-19 positivity rate drops to 5% for 30 days.
On Tuesday, CMPD told Channel 9 that no one had had any legal problems for mandate violations. They sent Channel 9 the following statement:
âThe CMPD will strive to achieve voluntary cooperation with every member of the community through education and conversations. Our efforts will be driven by a complaints-driven approach. This was the CMPD’s approach to consistent application of the mandate, and it will remain so until the mandate is revoked. It is encouraging to note that CMPD has received a considerable level of cooperation from the community during the previous terms, and we are very grateful for the unified efforts during this time.
(SEE BELOW: “We should protect the people”: County Meck will require masks for religious ceremonies)
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