Health officials in Ohio are urging a mega church to stop holding mass gatherings and obey the "stay at home" order under Gov. Mike DeWine to stem the coronavirus outbreak
Solid Rock megachurch of Lebanon, north of Cincinnati took the opposite approach despite concerns that large-size worship services and gatherings could spread the COVID-19 virus.
Inside its large sanctuary in Lebanon, hundreds of people sat close to each other and worshipping. And despite the risks, Solid Rock doesn't seem ready to call off in-person worship any time soon, according to HuffPost.
"We are respectful of every individual's right to choose either to come to our service or to watch online," the church said in a statement posted on its website. "We do believe that it is important for our doors to remain open for whomever to come to worship and pray during this time of great challenge in our country."
The Butler County Public Health District sent a letter to the church last Friday, noting that it had received multiple concerns and complaints about its gatherings.
"Butler County Public Health officials highly encourage Solid Rock Church discontinue holding large mass gatherings and practice social distancing," stated the letter, according to Cincinnati-based Fox 19.
"Bringing together a large number of people during a pandemic increases the pace at which the virus spreads, overwhelming our hospital systems and posing a significant risk to members within the congregation."
The letter also noted that most of the houses of worship in the state "meet their congregation's spiritual fulfillment" through online materials and services.
However, the church statement on its website says, "There is no pressure from Solid Rock Church to require anyone to come to our services. We are respectful of every individual's right to choose either to come to our service or to watch online" the First Amendment "guarantees freedom concerning religion, expression, and assembly."
The church's move has received a great deal of negative feedback to its Facebook page, critics labeled the church "selfish" and "irresponsible." One of the online critics, wrote "loving your neighbor means not killing them." HuffPost noted.