A Worcester pastor held services on Sunday in violation of a state ban on large gatherings, despite already facing warnings for two previous violations, church officials said.
A representative for the Adams Square Baptist Church confirmed Sunday that Pastor Kris Casey had held services earlier that day in the presence of more than 10 people, but declined to make a statement.
City officials said they would impose a $300 civil fine on Casey last week after the church violated a ban on gatherings of 10 or more people for the second time, holding in-person events on two consecutive Sundays.
With the third violation, Casey could face “a fine up to $500 or term of imprisonment,” according to state guidance issued with Governor Charlie Baker’s order.
City officials did not say what steps they plan to take on Sunday.
In an interview posted online by WCVB, Casey told reporters he did not understand why liquor stores and abortion clinics were allowed to continue operating, while in-person church services are capped at 10 people.
"[I]t’s hypocrisy at its finest, he said. “In fact, let’s call it what it really is — it’s tyranny. So that’s why I’m standing up to fight the cause and say it’s not going to happen on my watch.”
Following last week’s services, City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. called the pastor’s decision to continue holding services “disappointing.”
“In so doing, he is putting the health of his parishioners, and anyone they may come in direct contact with, at risk,” he said.
Casey is not alone in calling for the state to reopen places of worship. About 260 pastors from churches across the state called on Governor Baker to allow them to reopen in a letter posted last week. The message comes as the state prepares to ease restrictions imposed in March to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
In Sunday’s sermon, which is posted online, Casey called on parishioners to stay strong in their commitment to attending in-person services.
“Though they surround you with whatever they have — the horses, the cars, the police, the authorities, the devil, the demons — whatever they’re surrounding you with, you have Jesus Christ. And it doesn’t matter what they surround you with. Why? Because in the name of the Lord, you will see them destroyed. In the name of the Lord, you will see great victory.”
Abigail Feldman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org