Worcester Pastor Holds Second Church Service, Draws Fine, Says He’ll Do It Again

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2020/05/03/worcester-pastor-holds-second-church-service-draws-fine-says-hell-do-it-again/

For the second straight Sunday, the pastor of a church in Worcester held an indoor church service for more than the limit of 10 people allowed by the governor’s order.

Worcester’s city manager says Pastor Kris Casey will be fined $300.

And Pastor Casey says he plans to do it again.

Much of the service was carried live on the YouTube channel of Adams Square Baptist Church, but not all of it. New Boston Post was the only news outlet to have a reporter inside the church.

The service violated Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s executive order of March 23 limiting most gatherings to 10 people — including what the order calls “faith-based” events. The order is currently in effect until Monday, May 18.

Pastor Casey first held an in-person service exceeding 10 people on Sunday, April 26. On that day, the church encouraged people to stay six feet apart, offered masks and gloves to attendees, and required that they pass a temperature check to enter.

This time, the church took additional precautions. Masks and gloves were mandatory. Before the livestream began, Pastor Casey told church-goers that anyone who took their mask or gloves off would be escorted out to ensure the safety of the others. To prevent germs from spreading, the bathrooms were also closed off unless it was an emergency.

Church officials escorted people to their seats, used a double yardstick to ensure everyone was at least six feet away from everyone else, and put down pieces of tape to mark social distancing in all directions. As a result, around 40 people were admitted to a church that ordinarily holds 300 people. A few who arrived late were not allowed inside.

Before the service, Pastor Casey told the church attendees that if the police came into the building, that everyone there should comply with their orders.

“We’re not gonna fight,” he said. “We’re not gonna resist. This is way over their pay grade. The doors are unlocked, they can come in.”

Pastor Casey told New Boston Post that his church spent about $2,000 for an hours-long professional cleaning a couple of days before the service.

During the service, the pastor spoke of the importance of religious freedom. Before he went live on the church’s YouTube channel, he told the church attendees that the government is illicitly restricting people’s First Amendment rights during the coronavirus shutdown by trying to prevent them from attending church in-person.

“Our nation is under attack,” he said. “Massachusetts’s constitution is under attack. Our federal constitution is under attack. What matters here is that we’re together today to pray to God. The Bible tells us that we have a God-given right to worship and no government or no court can take that away from us.”

Pastor Casey’s sermon largely focused on the Bible story of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17.

Casey made indirect references to Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty and City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr., both of whom are Democrats, who on Monday, April 27 criticized Casey for opening the church to all comers last weekend.

“Listen, I was brought into this political fight,” Casey told the congregation. “It’s not something I wanted to be drawn into. But, when they mentioned my name in the city council, and they mentioned my name in the meeting, I did what the Lord told me to do and I held my peace. Why? It’s not my job to go into politics. It’s my job to proclaim the word of God. And if you want a message, come to church – you’ll get a message.”

He also commended the church attendees, who traveled from various parts of the state, for exercising their First Amendment rights to worship God.

“So when you come here today, what really matters is not that you defied the order of the governor,” Casey said. “What matters is that you came to serve your resurrected savior.”

Following the service, the city manager announced the city will fine Casey $300 on Monday, May 4 for holding the service. New Boston Post obtained a copy of the written statement.

“It is the city’s understanding that the pastor of the Adams Square Baptist Church has today violated Governor Baker’s order prohibiting public gatherings of more than 10 people,” the city manager’s statement says. “It is disappointing that despite all of the sound medical advice, and evidence of the effectiveness of limiting public gathering in curbing the spread of the COVID-19 virus, that this pastor has chosen to ignore that. In so doing, he is putting the health of his parishioners, and anyone they may come in direct contact with, at risk. As such, tomorrow the pastor will be presented with a $300 civil fine, which is in accordance with the fine allowed for a second violation of the Governor’s order.”

When asked about the fine by telephone Sunday afternoon, Pastor Casey told New Boston Post that he had not received official word of it, but anticipates he will get a written citation on Monday from Worcester Police Chief Steven Sargent.

“I’m sure they’re talking about it right now,” he said. “I talked to the chief Friday and he told me if anyone’s gonna do it, he’s gonna hand-deliver it to me. I have a very good working relationship with the chief. He’s a great guy and he’s doing a great job with the police. I feel bad that he’s in a position where he has to hand a civil fine to me. I completely understand it. He’s doing his job, but so am I.”

Attendees Roger Frost and a 77-year-old man named Richard, both of Worcester, told New Boston Post after the service that they were grateful for the opportunity to attend. They said attending church on Sunday is a necessary stand against authoritarianism and for religious freedom.

“What’s going on here is completely necessary,” Richard said as he left the service. “I don’t get what’s going on with the attack on our city, our businesses, our way of life and our churches. I would really like them to come forward and say why they’re doing this to our state. They’re doing what Nazis and Italians and the Vichy French couldn’t do. I think it would be good if someone asked the politicians why they’re doing what they’re doing to mom and pop stores and crushing this city.”

Frost noted that there have been other pandemics in the country which the United States survived without shutdowns, including swine flu 11 years ago.

“We shouldn’t shut down,” Frost said. “We overcame the one in 2009. And we can overcome this one. We need to get stronger and we will get stronger. We want to be free again.”

Frost also said people should be questioning government officials on the decisions they are making instead of simply going along with everything they say without thinking about it.

An eyewitness outside the church said later that around the time of the beginning of the 11 a.m. service two police officers on horseback went by the church.

About 35 minutes after the church service ended, two police officers on horses trotted down the sidewalk on the other side of Lincoln Street from the church, but never crossed the road. Frost and another man crossed the street to speak with them, and they both told New Boston Post afterward that the officers said their presence had nothing to do with the church service. 

After the service, Pastor Casey said he plans to hold another service on Sunday, May 11.

If so, that may up the ante. Government officials may consider another public service at the church a third violation of the governor’s executive order of March 23 limiting public gatherings to 10.

Guidance on the governor’s executive order from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health provides for a civil citation and up to a $300 fine for a second offense — but the possibility of criminal penalties for third and subsequent offenses, including a $500 fine or imprisonment.



Church-goers were kept at least two pews apart during a service at Adams Square Baptist Church on Sunday, May 3, 2020. Pastor Kris Casey emphasized religious freedom during his sermon. Across the street, a liquor store was open for business — liquor stores are exempted from the governor’s closure of most businesses. After the service, two Worcester police officers on horseback stayed on the other side of Lincoln Street. Photos by Tom Joyce for New Boston Post.