ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - There has been a call for clarification from the Maitland-based Liberty Counsel, a religious freedom advocacy organization, to Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings about a section of his executive order that seems to limit church congregations to 10 or less.
“I think that is not only unconstitutional, but it is shocking and reprehensible,” Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said. “We’re asking him since he does press conferences every day to make sure this is clarified.”
The organization, a conservative Christian ministry, is calling on Mayor Demings to revise the part of the order that limits in-person, indoor services to ten people.
Staver argues the county order contradicts the governor’s order declaring church services essential.
“He also put some intimidating language in there that is shocking,” Staver said. “You attend church, you are putting your own health at risk, but he doesn’t say that about any of the big box stores or the supercenters.”
Mayor Demings responded to the Liberty Counsel in a letter saying previous orders by the governor have expired and his new order does not mention anything that would keep local governments from making their own restrictions. The mayor also said his order only offers guidance to local churches to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Liberty Counsel has filed lawsuits against several other states including Maine, Virginia, and Kentucky for placing restrictions on religious gatherings. Staver hopes Mayor Demings will change the executive order.
“Now churches are more important than ever and we need to recognize the essential nature and ministry and help that churches can provide to the communities,” Staver said.
In that letter Mayor Demings also mentions that law enforcement in the county is not proactively enforcing these gathering limitations set retail, restaurants and religious services.