The city manager of Worcester, Massachusetts said Sunday that the city would fine Pastor Kristopher Casey $300 after he held church services two Sundays in a row for more than 10 participants.
The services at Adams Square Baptist Church violated an order from Gov. Charlie Baker prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people. Forty-six people attended Sunday's service, and 56 people attended the April 26 service. Worcester's police chief was across the street from the church Sunday, counting the number of people who entered the building.
Pastor Casey says the church has implemented measures to maintain safety for those who attend, including having the church professionally cleaned, enforcing social distancing inside the church to keep people separated by six feet and taking people's temperatures before letting them inside. Photos from the most recent service show many people entering the church wore masks and gloves. Casey also wore a mask to greet parishioners before the service, and at one point was waving an American flag outside the church.
"Listen, it's because of the men and women, our forefathers, who fought and died, that we have the liberty and Constitution that protects us to worship God ... " Casey said Sunday. "My whole argument has been the First and 14th amendments, along with Massachusetts law that says that no law shall be made that infringes on my rights to freely worship my God and my savior. And, so, just because it's not written into law, it may be an order. It may be something else. No law means no law."
In a statement Sunday, City Manager Edward Augustus called Casey's decision to violate Gov. Baker's order "disappointing."
"In so doing, he is putting the health of his parishioners, and anyone they may come in direct contact with, at risk," Augustus said. "As such, tomorrow the pastor will be presented with a $300 civil fine, which is in accordance with the fine allowed for a second violation of the Governor's order."
Another violation of the order could incur a $500 fine for the church, and possibly criminal charges for Casey.