A sitting Idaho lawmaker has flouted the governor’s order to halt all in-person church services to help stem the spread of coronavirus – saying it violates the Constitution.
State Rep. Tim Remington (R-Coeur d’Alene) is the senior pastor at the Altar Church in the lakeside resort city of Coeur d’Alene. On Sunday, he said he had a “skeleton crew” helping to facilitate in-person services – something Gov. Brad Little’s (R) shelter-in-place explicitly forbids.
Remington says orders like these violate the U.S. Constitution by blocking people’s freedom to assemble.
“They have just showed everybody in this nation how, because of a flu, ok, they can completely take away all of your First Amendment rights,” he said
COVID-19 is a different respiratory disease than the virus that causes the seasonal flu.
He also falsely said no one in Idaho had died from the coronavirus on Sunday. State officials reported five people had died as of Saturday night, with two more deaths occurring since.
More than 20 people could be seen sitting in the audience, though it’s unclear how many attended the service.
Remington acknowledged there were those who asked him how he could justify.
“‘How in the world could you ever open up your church and cause people to get this virus and spread it everywhere,’” he asked rhetorically.
“Well, I didn’t do that, I think that China did that. But outside of that, I think that God is good enough and we need to be aware enough to not be all over the elderly.”
Remington did not immediately return a request for comment.
The governor’s office also didn’t answer questions about how it would enforce the order it issued last week.
But Press Secretary Marissa Morrison Hyer told the Coeur d’Alene Press that law enforcement has not cited anyone so far and that they’d rather talk to people first before issuing misdemeanors.
“That’s not the goal,” Morrison Hyer told the newspaper Monday. “We’re not trying to fear monger people into staying home.”
Little appointed Remington to his seat earlier this year, after former state Rep. John Green was expelled from the body for being convicted on a federal tax charge. He's not seeking re-election.
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