FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WOWO): A group of local lawmakers have responded to recent action taken by the Allen County Health Commissioner ordering churches to halt in-person worship services to try to slow the spread of COVID-19.
In a letter sent to Attorney General Curtis Hill, which you can read below, Fort Wayne City Councilmen Jason Arp and Paul Ensley, as well as State Representatives Christopher Judy, Bob Morris, and Christy Stutzman, ask Hill to intervene and place a stay on Dr. Deborah McMahan’s order.
The letter argues that the order is in violation of the Indiana State Constitution concerning the Right of Assemblage and the Right to Worship.
McMahan says the only thing the order prohibits is having church services with more than 10 attendees present together, and says that the Health Department is “counting on our faith leaders to provide the spiritual support this community will need.”
The letter to Attorney General Curtis Hill is as follows:
Attorney General Hill,
It has come to our attention that the rights of churches to practice their religious freedoms has come under attack here in Allen County. Yesterday evening at 5:30 PM on 3/21/2020, the Allen County Health Commissioner, on behalf of the Allen County Department of Health issued an order to CLOSE churches in the county until April 11th.
This order, while it sites state code, is in violation of the Constitution of the State of Indiana, specifically Article 1, Section 31. Right of Assemblage as well as, and more importantly, Article 1 Section 2. Right to Worship. All people shall be secured in the natural right to worship ALMIGHTY GOD, according to the dictates of their own consciences.
The citizens of the State of Indiana expect that the government officials elected, or appointed by those they elect, would uphold their oaths to protect and defend the Constitution, even in times of great difficulty and confusion.
We understand that there is a public health concern regarding the Wuhan Flu (COVID-19). Churches, businesses, and most community members have made accommodations to voluntarily follow guidance given by the US CDC as well as the proclamations of the Governor and local officials. In fact, a few churches have worked very hard to continue to offer services to small groups of worshippers this Sunday, making provisions to keep group sizes below the levels recommended and within compliance with the Governor’s Executive Order pertaining to such matters.
We, the undersigned elected representatives of various jurisdictions of Northern Indiana, beseech you, Attorney General Hill, to intercede on behalf of the people of Allen County and place a stay on this order, thus allowing churches to keep their doors open.
Jason Arp – Fort Wayne City Council
Paul Ensley – Fort Wayne City Council
Christopher Judy – State Representative District 83
Bob Morris – State Representative District 85
Christy Stutzman – State Representative District 49