St. Joseph County Health Department faces some push back from church leaders

Published: Oct. 14, 2020 at 11:26 PM EDT
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ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. (WNDU) - St. Joseph County Health Department officials have received some push back after urging faith leaders to host virtual services through March.

Health officials sent a letter to churches Tuesday stating that church gatherings have contributed to the spike in COVID-19 cases.

Several faith leaders told 16 News Now that this is not true.

In a statement the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend said in part: “Since we are unaware of any outbreak coming from attendance at Catholic mass in St. Joseph County, we are confident that the precautionary measures which we have put in place have been effective in preventing the spread in our Catholic parishes.”

“The thought that maybe church services are leading to increase cases...We are not seeing that here. In my mind if people can go to a place like Lowe’s, Walmart and have a couple hundred people in the building at one time...and if that’s a church we are just looking really to be treated fairly," said Pastor of Nfluence Church Lucas Miles

Father Bill Schooler at St. Pius said reading that letter from the health department was “frustrating” considering his parish is following all safety measures. He said he also wrote back to the health department.

Miles said he, too, is following health protocols.

“I’ve actually been on calls with the White House. I’ve been on conference calls with Dr. Fauci to make sure as a pastor that we are following this...that we are opening properly; and so I was confused when I saw some of the local guidelines that I feel like are ignoring the science of some of the state and national guidelines. I am kind of curious on what the thinking there is," Miles said.

The health department said in part: “We recognize that not all faith communities will share our sense of urgency related to either the status or impact of COVID-19 in our community. We are happy to review COVID-19 safety plans for congregations intending to continue in-person worship.”

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