Health officials in Ohio are urging a megachurch to stop holding mass gatherings, including in-person worship services.
Solid Rock Church of Lebanon has continued to hold worship services despite concerns that large gatherings could spread the COVID-19 virus.
The Butler County Public Health District sent a letter to the church last Friday, noting that it had received multiple complaints about the worship services.
“Butler County Public Health officials highly encourage Solid Rock Church discontinue holding large mass gatherings and practice social distancing,” stated the letter, according to Cincinnati-based Fox 19.
“Bringing together a large number of people during a pandemic increases the pace at which the virus spreads, overwhelming our hospital systems and posing a significant risk to members within the congregation.”
The letter also noted that most of the houses of worship in the state “meet their congregation’s spiritual fulfillment” through online materials and services.
Two days after the letter was issued, Solid Rock held a Sunday worship service posted online, in which church leaders reiterated that people were not being forced to attend.
Last month, Solid Rock garnered controversy for deciding to continue holding worship services, being allowed to since religious gatherings were exempted from a state order.
In a statement posted on their website, the church noted that while they “share everyone’s concern to help keep people safe,” the First Amendment “guarantees freedom concerning religion, expression, and assembly.”
“There is no pressure from Solid Rock Church to require anyone to come to our services. We are respectful of every individual’s right to choose either to come to our service or to watch online,” stated Solid Rock.
“We do believe that it is important for our doors to remain open for whomever to come to worship and pray during this time of great challenge in our country.”
The move has received a great deal of negative feedback, however, with news station WHIO reporting that a live stream of one their services got around 3,000 negative comments.
One online critic, quoted by WHIO, stated “you have a moral obligation to protect your flock … God gave us brains to use them.”