AG Hill pens letter to St. Joseph County health officials on religious congregations

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind.—Attorney General Curtis Hill on Friday sent a letter to the St. Joseph County Department of Health warning local officials against actions that Hill says are "threatening religious congregations."

In the letter, Hill told St. Joseph County health officials to stop threatening religious congregations with negative consequences should congregations choose to continue meeting in person for worship services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The attorney general’s letter was sent in response to an October 13 letter sent by St. Joseph County health officials to local religious leaders urging them to hold virtual services through March 2021.

Dr. Mark Fox, St. Joseph County's deputy health officer, issued the following statement on Friday in response to Hill's letter: 

"We were surprised and, frankly, disappointed to receive Attorney General Hill's letter. It seems to represent yet another example of prioritizing politics over public health in the midst of a pandemic. The Attorney General's letter suggests a level of skepticism regarding the science; large indoor gatherings are associated with an increased risk of viral transmission. Our letter sought to share information with faith community leaders regarding the current burden of disease in St. Joseph County and the burden on our healthcare infrastructure, as well as to share data on several clusters which identified church attendance in their COVID exposure histories.

His letter also seems disingenuous in characterizing our letter as threatening. We did not issue an order, or a regulation, or a mandate, and in fact offered assistance in reviewing COVID safety plans for faith communities that choose to gather for in-person worship. His threat, however, was unequivocal.

Having said that, we cannot let his attack distract us from our fundamental commitment to protect the community, especially those most vulnerable to COVID-19, a commitment that we believe many faith communities share."

Read the full letter from Hill to St. Joseph County health officials below:

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