Solid Rock Church in Monroe continues to hold their weekly church services on Sunday despite requests from the Butler County Health District not to hold mass gatherings during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. While the church is exempt from the state public health orders, state and local health officials are asking churches not hold services to prevent the community spread of the coronavirus. ED RICHTER/STAFF

Solid Rock Church continues public worship services during coronavirus outbreak

The parking lot at the church’s North Campus in Monroe appeared to be half full with cars for the Sunday morning services. The church’s message board along Interstate 75 north of the Ohio 63 interchange invited motorists to join the congregation for its 10:30 a.m. services.

On March 23, Jennifer Bailer, Butler County health commissioner sent the church a letter noting they had received numerous complaints from the surrounding the community about the continuation of large services on Sunday and Wednesdays.

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Bailer noted that while health department understands the church is exempt from the Mass Gathering and Stay at Home, Directors Orders issued by Ohio Department of Health, Butler County Public Health officials highly encourage Solid Rock Church discontinue holding large mass gatherings and practice social distancing , keeping a distance of at least six feet between people.

“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,” Bailer’s letter said. “A majority of the religious institutions in Ohio has taken the strong stance of eliminating in-person services while continuing to meet their congregation’s spiritual fulfillment through digital sermons.”

Solid Rock Church broadcasts its services live on its website.

Many churches in Ohio have heeded the state’s “Stay at Home” and other public health orders to prevent the community spread of COVID-19 through mass gatherings such as worship services.

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Butler County Health District issued the letter because the Warren County church, located at 903 Union Road, is within the Monroe city limits which is served by the Butler County Health Department.

The church issued a statement saying, “As Christians we are charged by Jesus Christ to obey the laws of our land. Therefore, if the laws of our nation should ever change with respect to our First Amendment right to assemble, thereby restricting us from having our church doors open, we will willing comply.

“If there has ever been a time in the history of our world when we all need God’s help, it is now. For that reason, we believe that the doors of Solid Rock Church should remain open. It is in these times of crisis that the church should play a critical role as a place of refuge… A place where anyone can come to pray, to worship, and to find healing and hope.”

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In an email sent to Monroe City Council members last week, City Manager Bill Brock said the city received several calls and social media posts in inquiry to Monroe police where they responded accordingly that religious gatherings were not effected by the Governor’s order.

“Religious freedoms are constitutional rights,” Brock wrote. “While this is a question for legal counsel, my impression would be that we would not be able to enact legislation that would prohibit such gatherings and I would imagine that it is because of this legal challenge that the Governor has not done so thus far.”

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Last week, one resident sent Monroe City Council an email complaining about Solid Rock Church “operating at full capacity before and after the executive orders were issued.”

“They have taken to gloating that their first amendment rights protect them. While religious entities are protected under essential businesses, they are most certainly in violation of the maximum number we of people in a space. Please, for the sake of public health, for the sake of our lives, do something about this.

“24 thousand people are confirmed dead, and they continue the host an environment that can infect thousands. I can’t hide in my house forever. These people are among us and dangerous. Please file whatever possible injunction to have them closed. I don’t want to die.”

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