Crackdowns on gatherings of any size continue as authorities in various states take a strong-armed approach to controlling the spread of the novel coronavirus.
As we’ve recently reported, strategies to combat the spread of the virus have led to an alarming and growing number of pastors arrested for continuing to hold worship services with or without the observance of social distancing, all while convicted violent criminals are being released from jails for their own safety.
According to PJ Media, however, even participants small, outdoor gatherings strictly obeying social distancing guidelines are finding themselves in handcuffs.
On Sunday, the outlet reported that four men were arrested while conducting a prayer walk outside a Greensboro, North Carolina abortion clinic. The men, part of a pro-life group called “Love Life,” had canceled their previously scheduled group meeting and instead opted for just the four of them to meet. Nonetheless, the Greensboro Police Department arrested them and charged them with violating Guilford County’s stay-at-home order.
The very next day, the Greensboro Police Department arrested seven more people who were praying in public in front of an abortion facility.
Justin Reeder, the founder of Love Life, was arrested on Sunday and Monday, alongside Jason Oesterreich and Isaiah Burner. Also arrested were Leroy Stokes Jr., Andre Gonzalez, Richard Whittier, and John Mcatee.
Steve Noble, a local radio host who caught the arrests on video, wrote in a Facebook post that those arrested were following the county’s rules by limiting their gathering, which was held on private property with the permission of the owner, to fewer than ten people. “They were exercising their First Amendment rights [to] assemble and to exercise their religious beliefs,” said Noble. “They believe they are allowed to be there under the exemption clauses of the local county order” regarding coronavirus.
Noble’s video shows that the men were merely walking and praying quietly to themselves when police arrived.
In another video, the men can clearly be seen remaining at least six feet apart from each other. Regardless, police descended upon the group, ordering ten cars to the scene for backup.
All of the men emphasized that they had no beef with the police and understand that they were just following orders that came from above.
Mark Robinson, a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in the state was outraged by the arrests and by the violation of the men’s First Amendment rights. At the 51:00 mark of Noble’s video, he blamed Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan and the city council.
“A whole squadron of police officers come down here and violate someone’s First Amendment rights,” Robinson said. “This is absolutely ridiculous. The resources of this city are being wasted by sending people down here to stop people from praying against the scandal of abortion. These people are trying their best to do this and still follow the guidelines that have been set forth by the state and by the county and our city council and our mayor think that it’s essential to send police officers to browbeat people who are praying.”
“It’s awfully funny to me that the liquor stores are still open, the abortion clinic is still open, but, yet, we can’t go to church,” he added. “We can’t assemble and pray. We can’t peacefully assemble and have our grievances addressed. We can’t stand on the sidewalk and pray without the mayor turning the police into the Gestapo to send them down here to trample these people’s First Amendment rights. It is egregious. The people of Greensboro need to rise up and get rid of this mayor and get rid of this city council.”
In a blog post announcing the incident, North Carolina Values, a grassroots pro-family group, denounced the Greensboro police “for arresting Christians who peacefully and legally pray and exercise their religious rights on the sidewalks outside an abortion clinic.”
“Not even in communist China would police arrest three men for walking and praying on the street,” said Jim Quick, state director of grassroots & media at North Carolina Values Coalition. “Since Governor Cooper refused to close abortion clinics as part of his administration’s order to cease elective medical procedures these men were simply exercising their constitutional rights to pray outside one of the clinics that remain open. “
“Governor Cooper should have closed abortion clinics and urged abortion providers to donate their PPE and other equipment to [the] coronavirus response,” Quick declared, “just as he did with hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers that perform elective procedures.”
In a video published later on Monday, the men are seen not only being released from custody but boldly declaring why they will continue to pray and reach the lost during this difficult time.
Saints, it’s up to each of us and our God-given consciences to determine our compliance with social distancing “guidelines,” but what is not optional is obedience to God.
We praise God that these men had the boldness not only to honor Him and abide by guidelines set for the protection of their neighbors, but also that they glorified Him in spite of punishment.
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