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Colorado Springs church says it has Constitutional right to open, defying state health order

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- A Colorado Springs Church remains open for worship services even though there is a State Health Department order banning gatherings of 10 or more.

Leadership at Colorado Springs Fellowship Church tell KRDO they have no plans of closing. The church says that it has a Constitutional right to practice their religion, even amid the public health order aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Colorado Health Department officials tell KRDO this is the first example of defying the order in this manner that they've seen.

A YouTube video of Colorado Springs Fellowship's Sunday service on March 22 shows dozens of people in attendance.

The state order banning gatherings of 10 or more went into effect on March 19. The order specifically mentions that faith-based events are not exempt.

Pastor Rose Banks addressed coronavirus concerns with her congregation on Sunday.

"Now I want you to understand this ... if I'm a Christian, if I'm living for God, if I'm doing the right thing, why would God send a virus to kill me?" Pastor Banks says. "For us to create this type of fear and paranoia in this country … is amazing to me."

The vice president of the church, Lamont Banks, said the church has no plans to shut down. He declined an on-camera interview but did provide a statement.

"It is our belief under the Constitution that we will exercise our religious right as a church in this community," Banks said. "We exercise our rights, as it is the exercising of faith according to the word of God. We live by this as it is our faith. It is our belief that in this time of crisis according to scripture we run to the church as a place of Refuge and a place of hope for all those that seek it. We will under no circumstances close the doors of Colorado Springs Fellowship Church. We stand by this belief."

The language in the order indicates it is enforceable with fines of up to $1,000 and a year in county jail. However, both state and county health departments say voluntary compliance is preferred.

The state health department did tell KRDO on Tuesday that local law enforcement and the state can get involved if a request from the county health department isn't enough.

It's unclear if the El Paso County Health Department is looking into the situation at Colorado Springs Fellowship. A spokesperson told us that complaints could be filed through its new hotline.

You can reach health officials at (719) 578-3167.

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Chelsea Brentzel

Chelsea is the Assistant News Director for KRDO NewsChannel 13. Learn more about Chelsea here.


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