An Oregon church that sued the governor over COVID-19 restrictions will still open on Mother's Day despite now being linked to 74 virus cases

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An Oregon church that sued the governor over COVID-19 restrictions will still open on Mother's Day despite now being linked to 74 virus cases
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown.Cathy Cheney/Pool Photo via AP
  • 74 cases of COVID-19 have been linked to a church in Salem, Oregon, officials say.
  • People's Church previously sued state Governor Kate Brown over COVID restrictions in May 2020.
  • "We are concerned about the COVID-19 surge in Oregon," a spokesman for the church told the AP.

An Oregon church that previously sued the state's governor over COVID restrictions has been linked to dozens of new cases of the virus in recent weeks.

According to data published on May 5 by the Oregon Health Authority, 74 people associated with the People's Church in the city of Salem contracted COVID-19 between April 6 and April 29.

During that time the church has continued to hold in-person services, according to videos and photos posted on its Facebook page. In a number of videos, worshippers can be seen without masks and not observing social distancing.

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The church's website indicates in-person services and events will include Mother's Day services scheduled for Sunday, AP reported.

In a video posted to Facebook on April 15, one of the church's pastors, Tom Murray, encouraged anyone who has a "contagious illness" to stay home, while emphasising that the church remains open. In the video, he also stressed the church's hygiene measures, including frequent cleaning.

"If you or someone in your household is sick with a contagious illness, please seek the medical attention you need. Stay home, watch online, and return when you are feeling better," he said.

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"We encourage those who choose to attend in person to take advantage of physical distancing," he added.

In the video, Murray does not mention COVID-19 by name, but does talk about an "increase in positive tests."

A statement by church spokesman Brent Kintz given to the Associated Press said: "We are concerned about the COVID-19 surge in Oregon. This statewide increase has impacted our entire region, including our church family."

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In May 2020, the People's Church was part of a group of 21 Christian organizations which sued Oregon Governor Kate Brown via a non-profit called the Pacific Justice Institute. The suit claimed that by imposing restrictions such as stay-at-home orders and restrictions on the size of gatherings, state authorities were infringing on the religious freedoms of Oregonians.

"Governor Brown's executive orders are way too extreme and infringe on religious liberty far more than is necessary to preserve public health and safety," Pacific Justice Institute President Brad Dacusa said in a press release at the time.

Oregon has seen a spike in COVID infections in recent weeks. On April 1, the state reported 511 new cases. By April 30 that number had risen to 1,083.

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In total, 189,162 people have tested positive for the virus in the state, while 2,514 have died since the pandemic began.

Official guidance from state authorities remains that people should: "Wear a mask, physically distance, limit your gatherings, stay home when sick, and get a vaccination once it's available to you."

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