Alabama Attorney General: Enforcing coronavirus restrictions on churches is ‘ill-advised’

Attorney General Steve Marshall wants to see the health order changed before it expires next week.

Posted: May 6, 2020 9:16 PM
Updated: May 6, 2020 10:48 PM

Alabama's top law enforcement officer says he does not think the state's coronavirus Safer At Home order should be enforced against churches and places of worship.

Attorney General Steve Marshall wants to see the order changed before it expires next week.

A statement from the Attorney General's Office says "the Attorney General agrees that enforcement of the order against churches would be ill-advised. He has been assured that the state health order will soon be amended to better accommodate the free exercise of religion."

Currently, the state order prevents groups of 10 or more gathering where they can't keep a six-foot distance. This includes everything from churches to stores to public parks. Many law enforcement agencies throughout north Alabama  said they aren't looking to set up patrols at churches in their communities.

"I do agree with what the Attorney General has said, we're not trying to go out and do some strict enforcement. Now if someone needs us, we are going to be there for them but we have no doubt that the churches are going to do what is asked of them," Falkville Police Chief Aaron Burgess said.

Burgess says his team has no plans of enforcing or punishing churches when it comes to the state safer-at-home order, unless there is an unforeseen situation. Burgess says they are trusting churches to do the right thing.

"They understand that with us being a smaller agency and the limited resources, that we want to focus on priorities when it comes to being able to give the best service we can to the public," Burgess said.

Law enforcement in north Alabama say if there is a complaint, they will respond, but the reactions may be different.

Huntsville Police, the Madison County Sheriff's Office, and Decatur Police say they will focus on educating people about social distancing first. Any sort of enforcement would be the last thing they want to do.

The Marshall County Sheriff's Office and Falkville Police will not be actively patrolling churches and have no intentions of enforcement. Falkville Police will if there is an emergency.

Athens Police and the Morgan County Sheriff's Office wouldn't go into detail about their response. The Morgan County Sheriff's Office has made zero arrests and given zero citations. We are waiting to hear from other north Alabama departments.

Regardless, a pastor at the First Seventh Day Adventist Church says they are following all orders.

"In light of those comments, our goal is safety first. So I think there are a number of different methods by which we can put the gospel out to our people, we've figured out creative ways to stay connected," Pastor Debleaire Snell, said.

Snell and his church have been providing their services online. It'll stay that way, to make sure people are safe and healthy.

"We want to make sure that we do our part. We feel a sense of responsibility not just to come back together, but to do our part to help blunt this spread, blunt the curve and to kind of make sure we get to a place where if possible, we can put this in our rear-view mirror," Snell said.

The Attorney General's Office mentioned they've been assured the state health order will be amended, but its unclear when, or how. The current order is set to expire on May 15.

Below is the full statement from the Attorney General's Office:

"In response to your question about local law enforcement exercising discretion in enforcing the State Health Order, below is a comment from the Attorney General’s Office.

Sheriffs and police chiefs throughout Alabama have endeavored to work alongside their citizens to protect public health without being heavy-handed and that should continue until the order is lifted. Health risks vary widely in every situation and local officials are best suited to make decisions about enforcement from the front lines. The Attorney General agrees that enforcement of the order against churches would be ill-advised. He has been assured that the State Health Order will soon be amended to better accommodate the free exercise of religion."

Statement from Governor Kay Ivey's Office:

"Throughout the process, Governor Ivey and her team have been in close discussion with the Attorney General’s Office to ensure that all public health orders uphold our constitutional rights, while protecting the lives of our people during this health crisis. As the governor continually moves forward in reopening Alabama’s economy, she will work to ensure we are doing so in the best possible way for all Alabamians."

Huntsville
Mostly Cloudy
73° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 73°
Florence
Cloudy
72° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 72°
Fayetteville
Partly Cloudy
73° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 73°
Decatur
Cloudy
71° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 71°
Scottsboro
Partly Cloudy
73° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 73°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

 

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 540267

Reported Deaths: 11038
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson798791529
Mobile41295809
Madison35175506
Tuscaloosa25932455
Shelby25309249
Montgomery24736593
Baldwin21422310
Lee15997172
Calhoun14577319
Morgan14431280
Etowah13927353
Marshall12280225
Houston10650282
Elmore10158206
Limestone10075151
St. Clair9955245
Cullman9773194
Lauderdale9465243
DeKalb8866188
Talladega8344176
Walker7261278
Autauga7010108
Jackson6840112
Blount6776139
Colbert6322135
Coffee5583118
Dale4878113
Russell445938
Chilton4383113
Franklin426382
Covington4138118
Tallapoosa4044153
Escambia395177
Chambers3598123
Dallas3569153
Clarke351561
Marion3140101
Pike312077
Lawrence303698
Winston275873
Bibb264864
Geneva254178
Marengo249865
Pickens234862
Barbour232056
Hale224078
Butler219069
Fayette213162
Henry190043
Cherokee184845
Randolph182542
Monroe178241
Washington167839
Macon161350
Clay157257
Crenshaw153657
Cleburne149641
Lamar143336
Lowndes140753
Wilcox127430
Bullock123342
Conecuh110829
Coosa109228
Perry107826
Sumter105032
Greene92634
Choctaw61024
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 858355

Reported Deaths: 12327
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby967281638
Davidson89777942
Knox51190637
Hamilton44647496
Rutherford43278437
Williamson28148217
Sumner24170349
Montgomery20475228
Wilson18929236
Out of TN1826899
Sullivan16994300
Unassigned16910134
Blount15582196
Bradley15123151
Washington14713245
Maury13566172
Sevier13464176
Putnam11444175
Madison11292241
Robertson9810132
Anderson8810171
Hamblen8633173
Greene7936156
Tipton7403104
Coffee6925123
Dickson6856113
Cumberland6775133
Carter6671158
Gibson6559146
McMinn655998
Bedford6528129
Roane6327105
Jefferson6249125
Hawkins6188107
Loudon617169
Lawrence599191
Monroe588796
Warren556481
Dyer5445106
Franklin516590
Fayette512678
Cheatham458456
Obion455596
Cocke452699
Lincoln437163
Rhea436375
Marshall420758
Campbell417863
Weakley416965
Giles4014100
Henderson381176
White368970
Carroll363683
Macon363178
Hardin358568
Hardeman354364
Lauderdale321044
Henry320976
Claiborne318973
Scott316045
Marion313147
Overton302561
Wayne296934
Hickman285146
McNairy284454
DeKalb280754
Smith278939
Haywood271562
Grainger263950
Morgan251939
Trousdale250622
Fentress243447
Johnson242239
Bledsoe216311
Chester215551
Polk209725
Unicoi204449
Crockett203649
Cannon192831
Union192834
Humphreys182428
Grundy179434
Sequatchie171729
Lake170526
Benton167640
Decatur159239
Lewis158626
Meigs139325
Stewart133428
Jackson132536
Clay110330
Houston109933
Perry107328
Moore101817
Van Buren85523
Pickett75824
Hancock59512

Community Events