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Federal Judge Blocks North Carolina Governor’s Religious Restriction Orders

The Honorable James C. Dever III serves as a United States District Judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina. He has put a temporary block on the North Carolina Governor’s restrictions on indoor religious services as outlined in the Stay at Home Executive Orders. 

Honorable Judge James C. Dever III

The judge’s restraining order is effective immediately, and the judge set a court hearing for May 29, 2020. Judge Dever did remind religious leaders to adhere to the social distancing guidelines. 

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Berean Baptist Church, Return America, Inc., Dr. Ronnie Baity, and People’s Baptist Church, Inc against Gov. Cooper.

After the judge’s ruling was announced on Saturday, May 16, NC Governor Roy Cooper’s office responded with a statement. Ford Porter, Governor Cooper’s spokesperson, responded to the court ruling today on religious services during COVID-19 stating; “We don’t want indoor meetings to become hotspots for the virus and our health experts continue to warn that large groups sitting together inside for long periods of time are much more likely to cause the spread of COVID-19. While our office disagrees with the decision, we will not appeal, but instead urge houses of worship and their leaders to voluntarily follow public health guidance to keep their members safe.” asked officials how many outbreaks there have been in churches, hospitals, and small businesses. At the time of publication, there are no official responses about the breakdown of COVID-19 outbreaks. reported Thursday, the announcements made in front of the North Carolina General Assembly in Raleigh about two different lawsuits against North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper. Representative Keith Kidwell with the North Carolina House of Representatives 79th District distributed information about the two suits.

Rep. Kidwell also announced, “a lawsuit being filed on behalf of hundreds of churches in North Carolina against Governor Roy Cooper. The purpose of this lawsuit is to remind the governor that churches are free to exercise their rights under North Carolina Constitution Article 1, Section 13 and under the United States Constitution in the First Amendment.” Attorney and Pastor David Gibbs spoke at the press conference Thursday on behalf of the churches and Return America, Inc.

On Thursday, Rep. Kidwell announced another lawsuit on behalf of the Hair is Essential Association against Gov. Cooper for Executive Orders the association claims violate the North Carolina Constitution. Hair is Essential is an organization of NC beauticians, barbers, and cosmetologists. A letter sent by Attorney S.C. Kitchen on behalf of Hair is Essential on May 13 to the Honorable Roy Cooper stated, “People have the inalienable right to earn a living. Neither you nor the State have the right to preclude citizens using their own means from pursuing their chosen vocation. The preservation of this right is the principal reason for the Constitution itself. By ordering the closure, by executive fiat, of the Beauty Salons in North Carolina, you have violated the essence of the Constitution.”

Honorable North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper

Gov. Cooper was asked about the lawsuits on Thursday during the COVID-19 Task Force Press Conference. Gov. Cooper explained there is a 14 day period the officials need for data comparison, and there is no guarantee the Phase 2 of the reopening plan will start on May 22.

When asked about the Executive Orders he has made being unconstitutional and the lawsuits, he said he had not seen the lawsuits. asked Gov. Cooper by email again on Saturday afternoon if he would address the Hair is Esstential lawsuit. At the time of publication, no response from the Governor’s Office had been received. 

Watch Gov. Cooper’s full address during the COVID-19 Task Force here,

Related article and video:

Update: Religious and Business Leaders Threaten Lawsuits Against Governor Roy Cooper

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