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Kentucky Baptist pastor concerned about treatment of churches

FRANKFORT, Ky. (BP) — A Kentucky Baptist pastor is speaking out about ways he believes churches have been singled out during the coronavirus pandemic.

Hershael York, the pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, Ky., believes churches have been “unfairly singled out for both negative examples and also for enforcement of rules that were not being applied to other institutions.”

York doesn’t understand why churches are being held to different standards than the retailers around them.

“We’ve not been belligerent in any way,” York said. “But when we were allowed to go back, for instance, we were told we could only have one person in a bathroom at a time and then the bathroom had to be cleaned after each use. Well, my question was, why wasn’t Walmart told that?”

York and Richard Nelson, executive director of the Commonwealth Policy Center, were invited to testify before the Kentucky House Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee last week in Frankfort.

Todd Gray, Kentucky Baptist Convention executive director-treasurer, said, “I am grateful for Dr. York and his being invited to speak to our elected officials regarding the treatment of churches during the recent restrictions on in-person worship services brought about by the COVID pandemic.”

The Kentucky Baptist Convention comprises 2,360 churches with an approximate membership of 650,000 people.

“It just seemed that between the Catholic Conference and the Kentucky Baptist Convention you could get a lot of consensus,” York said. “I did not see signs that the governor’s office was actively reaching out toward these large church groups and saying, ‘Hey, let’s come up with a plan together so that we can take ownership of this and be partners in this thing.'”

York says Buck Run is working to comply with Phase 2 guidelines by holding three weekend services to accommodate seating capacity restrictions and cleaning and sanitizing between each service.

“I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize the health and safety of the people,” he said. “The people I serve are my neighbors, but I would like for churches to be a part of the conversation and to not be asked to carry an onerous burden that is unreasonable and certainly more than anyone else is being asked to carry.”

Gray agreed, saying: “Kentucky Baptists are not looking for preferential treatment from the government, but we do expect fair treatment and we expect our elected officials to defend our rights.”

York said his church is prepared for the duration of the pandemic.

“We know it’s not ending in the next week or two,” he said. “We don’t know how long this stage will last. We’re very hopeful it won’t get worse, but we’re trying to do the right thing and the best thing.”