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Supervisors pass resolution on church gatherings

NATCHEZ — On Monday, the Adams County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution authorizing them to take any actions necessary and proper to enforce Gov. Tate Reeves’ shelter in place order against religious entities such as New Hope the Vision Center Missionary Baptist Church.

New Hope hosted a worship service on Sunday housing approximately 250 people while the order was in place, which prohibits any gatherings of more than 10 people where they are within 6 feet of each other.

The Adams County Board of Supervisors held their regularly scheduled meeting via teleconference on Monday.

Near the end of the meeting the board entered into executive session — a meeting closed to the public — to discuss personnel issues and potential litigation and later voted unanimously on the resolution after reentering open session.

After the meeting, Adams County Attorney Scott Slover said the Board of Supervisors would get a declaratory judgment that clearly outlines what the governor’s order says are prohibited actions and what the rights of religious entities are so county law officials can properly enforce the order.

Slover said Executive Order No. 1466 declaring a “shelter in place” references another executive order No. 1463 which requires all essential services, including religious entities, to comply with the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Mississippi State Department of Health.

“It’s not a clear order in that you have ‘don’t do this and don’t do that,’” Slover said. “We believe that the governor’s order prohibits actions that do not comply with (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines, which are you’re not supposed to have functions with more than 10 people and you’re supposed to be able to properly distance those people more than 6 feet apart.”

Slover said the resolution also applies to other places of worship that may still be holding services.

Warren Gaines, Supervisor of District 5 that includes New Hope Vision Center said he believes the county should fairly execute and enforce whatever the governor’s order says.

“A government order is a government order and they are doing research to make sure that we are enforcing what the order says,” Gaines said. “… I believe in our freedom to worship, but also believe that we should follow the laws that keep the community safe.”

District 4 Supervisor Ricky Gray said he would also speak with his friend and New Hope pastor, Rev. Stanley Searcy, and try to reach an understanding of what the law says.

“The only thing the county is trying to do is be proactive and we make sure the No. 1 thing is the safety of the people in Adams County,” Gray said. “This virus is really serious, is killing people and every time you look at the number of people infected the numbers are going up and not down.”

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