Jeff Fugate, pastor of the 2,500-member Clay Mills Baptist Church near Lexington, Kentucky, has announced his church has temporarily suspended in-person worship after 18 of its members were recently diagnosed with coronavirus.
Though state health officials say evidence shows the new infections were likely linked to the church, Fugate said there is "no indication" that is the case.
"The contact tracing work seemed to stop with our church. Did the virus come from someone's place of work, the mall, a grocery store, or big box store? Why did Governor Beshear and the Health Department single out by name, me and our church? Why not reveal the names and places where the virus came from ‘before' coming to our church? This sounds like ‘contact targeting' rather than contact tracing," Fugate said.
Fugate, who previously sparred with Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear over churches' constitutional right to hold in-person services, said his top priority is the "health and safety" of the congregation.
"Our church did not ‘produce' the virus. Someone had to have picked up the virus somewhere before we opened church to the public for just two weeks. We had not had in-person church services since March 15," he said. "However, to prevent anyone else from getting the virus I suspended in-person services until June 21. I have said from the beginning that the health and safety of our people is most important to me."