Worcester Pastor Declares Victory

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2020/06/26/worcester-pastor-declares-victory/

City authorities in Worcester have dropped fines and an attempt to get criminal charges against the pastor who defied Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s executive order that severely limited church services during an earlier portion of the coronavirus emergency.

Pastor Kris Casey has also withdrawn his federal civil rights lawsuit against the governor, according to court papers.

Casey said he is pleased with the outcome.

“Our God is victorious, He always wins!” Casey said in a written statement Friday morning. “… They withdrew charges and are going to leave us alone. That’s all we wanted.”

A spokesman for the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, which represented the governor in the case, could not immediately be reached Friday.

From March 23 to May 18, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker by executive order limited most public gatherings to 10 people, including what the order called “faith-based” events.

Casey began holding public services at Adams Square Baptist Church in Worcester open to several dozen people on Sunday, April 26, about a month after the governor issued the order. The pastor continued to disregard the governor’s order on subsequent Wednesdays and Sundays.

The pastor took unusual health precautions, including paying for professional cleanings of the church before services, taking temperatures at the door, and requiring masks, gloves, and social distancing. He told New Boston Post on Friday morning that he knows of no one who attended church who subsequently got sick.

During that time the city issued the pastor a $300 civil penalty and applied for a $500 fine and criminal charges in Worcester District Court. Jail was also a possibility – violating the governor’s order could have drawn “a term of imprisonment,” according to a state directive.

Instead, the clerk-magistrate in Worcester District Court on May 21 withdrew the civil infraction and the application for a criminal charge initially filed by Worcester police, acting on a request by a lawyer for the city, according to a letter obtained Friday, June 26 by New Boston Post. A show-cause hearing before the clerk magistrate that had been scheduled for Monday, June 15 was also cancelled May 21, according to the letter.

That information was not publicly available previously because the clerk-magistrate process in Massachusetts is often secret unless the clerk-magistrate issues a criminal charge.

On Friday, June 26, Wendy Quinn, assistant city solicitor and head litigator for the city of Worcester, issued a statement about pastor’s case after being contacted by New Boston Post. It states in full:

“On May 21, 2020, the City of Worcester informed the Worcester District Court that it was withdrawing the civil citation and the criminal complaint against the Adams Square Baptist Church and Kristopher Casey, and received confirmation that same day from the District Court that the matters had been withdrawn, all with the full knowledge of Mr. Casey’s attorneys.”

The date of the clerk-magistrate’s letter dismissing the criminal application is eight days after Casey filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Boston claiming the governor violated his right to religious freedom under the federal and state constitutions. That lawsuit, filed May 13, was followed on May 15 by a temporary agreement among lawyers for Casey, the city, and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, in which the authorities agreed not to pursue additional penalties against the pastor while waiting for the governor’s anticipated new coronavirus rules.

The governor’s new rules, issued Monday, May 18, lifted the most draconian restrictions on church services, authorizing public services as long as people in the church wear masks and maintain social distancing and as long as a church building’s occupancy doesn’t exceed 40 percent of its ordinary capacity. Churches are also supposed to sanitize their buildings between services.

The new May 18 rules largely lifted the resistance to the governor’s orders regarding churches. But the new order hasn’t ended opposition.

On June 1, two Protestant pastors joined a restaurant owner, two hair salon owners, a family amusement business, a conference center, and a Christian school in filing a lawsuit in Worcester Superior Court claiming that the governor has violated the state constitution and existing state statutes during the coronavirus emergency. That case is pending.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs in that case said he wants a judge to declare that going forward the governor can’t restrict religious and business life on his own authority the way he has been doing the last several months.

Pastor Casey, who is not part of the Worcester Superior Court case, sees his journey through the courts as at an end.

“First and foremost I want to praise God through my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to whom all glory goes to,” Casey said in a text message Friday morning, adding that dozens of people have come to the church during the past several weeks to profess their faith in Jesus and start the process of getting baptized. “… Truly appreciate the power of the Holy Spirit keeping me calm and steady in the assurance of doing the right thing for Jesus.”

He also thanked his wife “for her unwavering support in my decision to stand for our Church, our Faith, and our family.”

He thanked friends and members of his church, as well, although he noted that some Christian pastors opposed him.

“We endured much friendly fire,” Casey said in the text message. “… But I forgive you and wish you the best in your ministry and walk with Christ. I’m here for you and have stood for you when you wouldn’t stand for yourself.”