FILE – In a Feb. 6, 2019 file photo, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper speaks with reporters after testifying before the House Natural Resources Committee hearing on climate change, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
As I wrote earlier this week, Democrats in my home state have gotten downright Orwellian anytime Republicans question Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and other state officials on the data they’re using to continue to justify North Carolina’s stay at home order, which went into effect on March 30th.
Those questions have escalated in the aftermath of some disturbing confrontations over the past two weeks between pro-life counselors outside of abortion clinics, those protesting the stay at home order itself, and local law enforcement officers.
Fortunately, none of the encounters were violent, but they did lead to some arrests – where the arresting officers cited the Governor’s order on gatherings of more than 10 and their guidelines on social distancing. The arrests have had GOP leaders at the state level demanding clarification from Gov. Cooper as to whether or not a) protests are allowed under the order (it’s not mentioned specifically in the order) and b) whether or not churches can conduct church services on Sunday by using the state’s guidelines for how many people can enter into a grocery store, provided that social distancing guidelines are observed.
The answers Cooper gave at a Friday press briefing were very disturbing, and had some grumbling that Cooper was using this crisis to act like a mini-dictator.
The Carolina Journal reports:
It’s “irresponsible” of some politicians to “use faith” to lure people into endangering themselves, their family, and their own congregation, Gov. Roy Cooper said during a Friday, April 17, news conference.
Cooper didn’t name names, but Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, is among those who have criticized county stay-at-home orders, such as Wake’s, that restrict religious activity.
“In NC’s capital city: “No communion,” “no tithes,” “no [religious] literature.” Yet the same gov’t orders allow ppl to pay cash for take-out food after reviewing a menu at the local McDonalds,” Berger tweeted April 16.
The governor is missing the point, said Pat Ryan, a spokesman for Berger.
“The problem is that his order and, more egregiously, the Wake County order, treat houses of worship differently from other establishments,” Ryan told Carolina Journal.
Berger and his spokesman are right. Wake County’s stay at home orders are not only the most restrictive in the state, but the church restrictions are at odds with how non-church establishments are treated – something even local journalists who tend to lean left have acknowledged:
Struggling to understand the new Wake County order. Exchanging food and/or money through a car window is OK for fast food restaurants, but not churches?https://t.co/KRJ5mMU5uU Interesting story here by @Anna_M_Johnson #ncpol #ncga pic.twitter.com/9vtO0pSGfp
— Will Doran (@will_doran) April 16, 2020
Something not widely known about Cooper’s March 30 order is that if a county order is more strict than the state’s, the county’s is the one that will be observed.
During the press briefing, instead of criticizing Wake County’s order for going too far in the banning of certain religious activity, Cooper actually encouraged counties to go “stricter” if they found it necessary:
“I think it’s been important that we have had a statewide standard. I think it’s also important that some local governments have seen that they may need some stricter requirements, and a number of those local governments have as well.
I think it’s important for us to keep a statewide floor and I think it’s also important for local governments to continue to have the flexibility to do more with their restrictions if they need to.”
Cooper’s answers are unlikely to sit well with Republican leaders, who are already threatening legal action over the protest arrests on First Amendment grounds.
One local reporter noted during the press briefing yesterday that there were reports that some churches planned on defying the state’s and Wake County’s ban on in-house church services tomorrow, which would then force the governor’s hand on whether or not church buildings can operate under the same standards a grocery store can.
In addition to that, the state’s “Reopen” movement is not done, and plans on protesting every Tuesday until the stay at home orders are lifted. Republican Congressman Dan Bishop plans on being in attendance at next Tuesday’s “Reopen” gathering.