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'It is not a Christian thing to do,' Dewine says of reported large church gatherings

Posted at 6:05 PM, Apr 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-02 19:07:57-04

MONROE, Ohio — The Solid Rock Church, located in Monroe but under the jurisdiction of the Butler County General Health District, has allegedly continued to hold large church services each Sunday and Wednesday in the midst of the COVID-19 epidemic, according to community members.

A statement on the Solid Rock Church website said the church intends to remain open until legally ordered to close:

Community members said they're not comfortable with the large congregation the church draws each week, as social distancing and a stay-at-home order from Governor Mike DeWine are still enforced. Currently, under DeWine's order, churches are not affected or mandated against holding service. Many churches throughout the country have moved to an online-only format to comply with social distancing recommendations, however.

"I have friends and family that have lost their jobs because they're not allowed to gather," said Tammy Ritter-Poling, a Monroe resident. "And they [Solid Rock Church] still are."

During his daily press conference Wednesday, when asked about the church and its decision to draw large groups of people for services, Governor DeWine alluded to an extension of the stay-at-home order, which he said would be announced on Thursday.

"Any pastor who brings people together in close proximity to each other, a large group of people, is making a huge mistake," said DeWine.

Officials at the Butler County General Health District said the church's services are known to them, and they've received numerous complaints. The department said it sent a letter to the church in March encouraging it to stop in-person services. Complaints that the church has not chosen to accommodate that request have continued to pour in to WCPO.

"It is not a Christian thing to do," said DeWine. "It is not in the Judeo-Christian tradition to hurt people."

A church administrator repeated Solid Rock's official statement when contacted by WCPO. Despite the governor's stance, he said, Solid Rock is not legally prohibited from holding services and is not the only church in the area continuing to do so. In the absence of a legal order, its staff plans to keep it open.