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'We are standing on the side of responsibility' | Despite exemption from Executive Orders, many houses of worship remain closed to in-person service

Weddings, funerals, and religious services are exempt from the state's mass gathering rules, as well as protected by the First Amendment.

As Phase 2 of Governor Cooper's reopening plan draws nears, many places ready are to reopen: restaurant dining rooms, hair and nail salons, even public pools.

But there are some exemptions: funerals, weddings, and religious or spiritual services.

Although these kinds of activities are covered by the First Amendment, as acknowledged by Governor Cooper in his executive order, some say just because you can - doesn't mean you should.

To include all the people they love on their wedding day, in the time of coronavirus, James Woodward and Lily Reppert decided to live stream their ceremony online. 

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"Overall, we looked at the ups and downs and just decided, you know, we love each other and we want to get married!" said Reppert, "We don’t want to push it back just because we waited on this day for so long."

Weddings, funerals, and other religious services are exempt from mass gathering rules ordered by the Governor and covered by the First Amendment. That means, the couple could have invited guests. 

"I’m a nursing student, and EMT and I understand the virus is not gone just because they’re opening up," Reppert said, "It was kind of cool to hear that we could have guests - but I think that we’re just kind of keeping things the same."

As for houses of worship, WFMY News 2 spoke with Rabbi Andy Koren of Temple Emanuel of Greensboro, and Reverend Kim Priddy of Sedgefield Presbyterian Church, the co-chairs of the Greensboro Faith Leaders' Council.

They speak for many houses of worship when saying they will continue to wait, not taking a step toward opening in Phase 2 - or anytime soon. 

"I want the world to hear that there is a strong religious voice out there that says that we are going to wait," said Rabbi Koren, "We're going to be grateful that those rights remain intact - but for this period of time we are going to stand on the side of responsibility."

"When I think of what church is supposed to be, I think it is supposed to be a place of refuge and so are we providing that place of refuge for our faith folks if we are putting them at risk?" said Reverend Priddy, "We shake each other‘s hands, we hug each other, we stand beside each other, we sing, we pass the plate...so until we can do some of those things safely, we feel as though it’s in our best interest to continue our online worship, our online connections."

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