Worcester pastor holds service in defiance of Baker’s coronavirus orders

WORCESTER, MASS. (WHDH) - A Worcester pastor held a worship service Sunday in defiance of several orders that are in place to safeguard against the spread of the coronavirus, prompting a stern warning from city officials.

Adams Square Baptist Church pastor Kris Casey decided to hold a gathering of 56 worshippers, despite Gov. Charlie Baker’s ban on gatherings of more than 10 people, which has since been extended through May 18.

Police have threatened to hit Casey with a $300 fine but the pastor says he still intends to hold another service Wednesday.

“We’re thankful for the fact that we here in America have the ability to worship our creator and we are protected,” Casey told parishioners who gathered at the hourlong weekend service.

The direct violation of Baker’s ban didn’t come as a surprise.

In a letter addressed to Baker and shared on Facebook, Casey wrote, “Such a shutdown of religious services violates clear Constitutional rights under the 1st and 14th Amendments.”

During his Sunday service, Casey appeared to admit to breaking social distancing rules while delivering a sermon about people appealing to King David.

“Don’t do this David, trust in God, don’t do this,” Casey said in front of the church. “David did it anyways, sound familiar?”

Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus responded to Casey’s actions during a news conference on Monday night, stressing that Baker’s ban on gatherings is not optional.

“This is really unfortunate that one faith-based group would choose to not follow the governor’s order as every other faith-based group is,” Augustus told reporters.

Baker says his ban is simply meant to keep the public safe during the outbreak.

“There’s lots of data from around the globe in places where people didn’t put constraints and the virus went all over the place,” Baker said Tuesday when asked about Casey.

Casey could now face a fine or imprisonment for subsequent violations, authorities warned.

Anyone who opts to attend Wednesday’s service will have their temperature taken, be asked to sit six feet apart from others, and required to wear a mask and gloves, according to Casey.

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