Coronavirus Indiana

Indiana Officials Issue Warnings After Church Leaders Cited for Holding Service

The citations were issued after church elders violated the state's "stay-at-home" orders

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Officials in northwest Indiana are encouraging residents to abide by the state’s “stay-at-home” order after the elders of a Hammond church were issued citations after they decided to hold a public service over the weekend.

The Hammond Church of Christ normally posts its sermons on its YouTube channel, but on Sunday police received reports that there were people inside of the church despite the ongoing “stay-at-home” order.

“There were approximately 30 people in attendance,” Lt. Steve Kellogg of the Hammond Police Department said. “Some were wearing masks, some were without masks.”

Police were called to the church and officers asked the group to leave. Church elders refused the order however, saying that they are an “essential service.”

Officers then issued citations for failing to abide by the governor’s order.

“I was instantly angry when I heard about it,” Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said. “Churches are supposed to be out for the health and safety of their community and of their parishioners.”

With Easter coming up, there have been some concerns that more churches could violate the “stay-at-home” order, which was recently extended by Governor Eric Holcomb.

“We have been seeing some churches post on social media, saying ‘hey we’re going to have service on Easter,’” Kellogg said. “We’re just doing spot checks here and there, making sure everybody is in compliance.”

The mayor said that while the Church of Christ violated the state order, every other church in the city abided by the directive.

“Thankfully there are probably 100 churches in our city, and 99 out of the 100 were operating according to the shelter in place order,” he said. “The Church of Christ on 169th Street thought they were exempt and special for some reason, and that was dangerous.”

NBC 5 reached out to the church for comment on the story. The church did not issue a response, and their public Facebook page has been taken down. Their online sermons on YouTube have also been set to “private” after the citations.

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