The Harassment of Churches Following COVID-19 Guidelines Continues in This Massachusetts Town

May 15, 2020
Sarah Kramer

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Victory Baptist Church in Dedham, Massachusetts, was careful to follow all the guidelines laid out by government officials.

As restrictions begin to ease across the country, the church decided to move to holding services in person while strictly following social distancing guidelines. Its leaders came up with a plan to start holding these “social-distanced services” on Mother’s Day, having no more than 10 people gathered at a time.

This was completely in line with the Massachusetts governor’s COVID-19 emergency order, which restricts gatherings to 10 people or less.

But Dedham town officials were not content to let that happen, sending Victory Baptist Church a cease-and-desist letter and forbidding churches to meet at all—even with less than 10 people.

The church complied, but Pastor Nick White also knew his church was being unfairly targeted and harassed. So he reached out to the ADF Church Alliance for help.

This week, the ADF Church Alliance sent a letter calling on Dedham town officials to rescind their order and allow Victory Baptist Church to meet for their “social-distanced services.”

Victory Baptist Church’s services not only comply with the governor’s order, but also take additional steps to ensure the safety of their attendees. In addition to keeping the gatherings to 10 people or less, the church intends to:

  • limit each service to no more than one hour and place a one-hour buffer between services to do a deep sanitization of the church after each service;
  • take each congregant’s temperature at the door with an infrared, non-contact thermometer and prohibit anyone with a temperature of 99 degrees or above from entering the church;
  • provide and require congregants to wear latex- and powder-free gloves and a mask; and
  • space each chair eight feet apart.

Pastor White also asked elderly congregants and those with underlying health conditions “to stay home” for their health and safety.

The Town of Dedham is not punishing other groups for meeting in groups of 10 or less, so there’s no reason this church should be kept from meeting within those guidelines as well. As ADF Senior Counsel Ryan Tucker put it: “The only apparent explanation is that the town wants to harass this church.”

Churches and other religious organizations cannot be treated worse than secular organizations—the Supreme Court has made that clear. But that is exactly what is happening in Dedham, Massachusetts.

Even in the wake of COVID-19, our constitutional rights do not disappear.

The ADF Church Alliance is dedicated to defending the constitutional rights of churches like Victory Baptist Church, even during a global pandemic. During this time, ADF has either directly advised or equipped others to advise upwards of 2,000 churches and ministries—in virtually every state.

Learn more about the work that the ADF Church Alliance is doing on behalf of churches and how your church can become a member.

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