Bulloch Sheriff Addresses Bulloch County Church Continuing to Meet
The Redeeming Love Church of God the Bibleway, located on Highway 67 outside of Statesboro, has made national news for refusing to comply with local orders to not assemble in groups larger than 10. The local orders specifically addressed churches and places of worship. The concern with these groups meeting are based on large outbreaks in other communities around the nation linked back to churches and other large group gatherings.
When Governor Brian Kemp implemented his shelter in place order, the statewide order superseded the local orders. In his order, he exempts places of worships from the more than 10 groups as long as they are more than six feet apart. The Governors order also allows churches who meet outdoors in their cars. One other part of his order was overriding local ordinances regarding closing beaches and parks.
However, Governor Kemp’s Department of Health, local medical professionals and local law enforcement highly encourage churches and other organizations to take advised precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and NOT meet in groups. They encourage churches to honor the shelter in home ordinance and to please meet online.
The Redeeming Love Church of God the Bibleway did meet again on Wednesday night, but did comply with the six feet separation of the congregants. Because of this, local law enforcement can not stop the service.
Bulloch County Sheriff Noel Brown released this statement addressing The Redeeming Love Church of God the Bibleway:
During the past several weeks Sheriff Brown and his office have received numerous complaints about large gatherings of individuals at the Redeeming Love Church of God the Bibleway, located on Highway 67. The complaints have been against the church allowing more than 10 people to congregate together which the public believes violates Gov. Brian Kemp’s executive order to shelter in place and maintain social distancing.
On Sunday, April 5, the Georgia State Patrol along with the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office responded to the Church and contact was made with four members of the church’s governing body. Each of the four were issued citations by Troopers and also advised of Gov. Kemp’s executive order. At the time the citations were issued, the church was not practicing safe social distancing protocol.
The Sheriff would like the public to know that as part of the state’s executive order, churches may hold services with more than 10 people so long as the congregation maintains and observes social distancing, although, the Department of Public Health strongly discourages these types of gatherings.
For now, the citations issued by GSP satisfies the violation of the state’s executive order and the church has now become compliant with social distancing inside the building.
The Sheriff and his office will continue to monitor the situation and should further violations arise, the Sheriff’s Office will seek guidance from both the local District Attorney’s Office and Solicitor’s Office as well as the Attorney General’s Office, the Department of Public Health and the Governor’s Office on how to keep the public safe without violating civil liberties provided to all citizens by the Constitution.
Governor Kemp Releases Statement Asking Churches NOT to meet in Person – Even in Cars
After a week of confusing and seemingly mixed messages from Governor Kemp, he released a statement contradicting his own order encouraging churches NOT to meet this weekend. He went on in the statement to ask congregations to even NOT meet in cars. He explained that he has been getting reports that children and adults are NOT staying in their cars. This makes it even more confusing for law enforcement who are trying to enforce Kemp’s orders.
Here is Kemp’s Statement in Full:
Atlanta, GA – Today Governor Brian P. Kemp urged Georgians to plan for online or call-in religious services, including Easter Sunday on April 12.
“I greatly appreciate faith leaders across our state who have made the tough decision to stop the spread of COVID-19 by suspending in-person religious services. Their leadership is literally saving lives,” said Governor Kemp. “To all Georgians celebrating Easter this Sunday, I am pleading with you to not attend any services in person. If you attend worship services in person, you risk exposure to coronavirus – potentially endangering your life, the lives of your neighbors, and your loved ones. I know this decision is difficult, but we will get through this together.”
For drive-in services, law enforcement have received reports that people are not staying in their vehicles. For example, people will leave their cars to let their children play, go to nearby restrooms, or otherwise congregate.