North Carolina State Representative Keith Kidwell (R) is organizing a lawsuit against Gov. Roy Cooper for violating religious freedoms by limiting religious activities as part of his statewide stay-at-home order in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The lawsuit will be filed in state and federal court, and has the support of about 30 other North Carolina representatives. Kidwell also has introduced a bill that would permit churches to remain open even during a state of emergency and also allocate funding for supplies such as hand sanitizer and masks.
Kidwell noted that even though churches are technically considered essential businesses in North Carolina, Cooper's order did not allow them the same freedom to operate as other essential businesses, such as grocers and home improvement stores.
"The big-box stores are allowed to remain open, and it looks like it's Christmastime in most of them," he said. "Yet churches are not allowed to open even though they've been declared essential businesses."
One of Kidwell's colleagues, Rep. Michael Speciale (R), said existing laws governing a state of emergency were designed for disasters such as wildfires and hurricanes.
"Nobody envisioned something like this, or any governor stretching so far to tell people to stay home and close their business," he said. "Nothing was ever designed for that."
Some 400 North Carolina churches may join the lawsuit, according to the Carolina Journal.