RALEIGH, N.C. (WECT) - A United States District Judge has issued a temporary restraining order that prevents the state of North Carolina from taking any action against a place of worship that conducts religious services indoors. The order is effective immediately and will last for at least fourteen days.
The Saturday afternoon ruling effectively ends the part of the Governor’s executive order 138, which required any religious gathering of 10 or more people to take place outdoors only. A group called Return America filed the federal lawsuit Thursday stating that the executive order violated their constitutional rights. Organizers said it had the support of more than 200 religious leaders across the state.
Judge James C. Dever III granted the temporary restraining order Saturday, while acknowledging that worshipers should still observe social distancing recommendations where possible.
The governor’s office immediately responded to the ruling and said it will not appeal.
“We don’t want indoor meetings to become hotspots for the virus and our health experts continue to warn that large groups sitting together inside for long periods of time are much more likely to cause the spread of COVID-19. While our office disagrees with the decision, we will not appeal, but instead urge houses of worship and their leaders to voluntarily follow public health guidance to keep their members safe," Ford Porter, the governor’s spokesperson, said in an emailed statement.
The order is in effect for 14 days, while the court prepares to hear the case for a preliminary injunction on May 29th.
This story is still developing. It will be updated with any additional information, including how local churches may react in terms of offering worship services, as soon as that information becomes available.