Ohio mayor pleads for church to stop in-person services

LEBANON, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio mayor pleaded with a local church to “reconsider” holding in-person services amid concerns of the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

Monroe Mayor Jason Frentzel sent a letter Thursday to Solid Rock Church asking church officials to halt service, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

“While I understand that you have the right to assemble, I also understand the community’s concerns with having such a large gathering coming together in this current environment,” Frentzel wrote.

The church, which is known for its large statue of Jesus overlooking a large pond off Interstate 75, has continued to leave its doors open and hold in-person services despite calls from Gov. Mike DeWine and advocacy groups to stop.

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“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,” the church said in a statement on its website.

Church officials told The Enquirer they are having members of their congregation practice social distancing inside the church and are disinfecting their facilities before and after services.

The letter from Frentzel comes days after Florida megachurch pastor Rodney Howard-Browne was arrested and charged with unlawful assembly and violating public health rules after hosting two packed Sunday services.

DeWine has not banned churches from holding in-person services but noted this week it is a “huge mistake” for those large gatherings to occur.

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