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Pastors sue Harris County Judge for stay-at-home order

An attorney for local pastors is asking the Texas Supreme Court to stop the stay at home order that bans churches from coming together in person.

HOUSTON — Some local pastors have filed a lawsuit against the Harris County Judge. They believe the stay at home order infringes on their first amendment rights. These local pastors say they want to continue with their weekly services.

Houston attorney Jared Woodfill filed a lawsuit against Judge Lina Hidalgo in the Texas Supreme Court. He is asking the Texas Supreme Court to stop the stay at home order that bans churches from coming together in person. Three local pastors and a conservative activist are suing Hidalgo.

“It violates the first amendment of the United States constitution which says we have the right to practice our religion freely. And we also have the right to peacefully ensemble,” said Steve Hotze, a conservative activist suing Hidalgo.

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The plaintiffs believe they are essential personnel and should be allowed to hold church services in person.

“I truly believe that the church are first responders. The church is so essential today,” said Juan Carmen Bustament a pastor who is suing the county judge.

Juan Carmen Bustamente is one of the pastors in the lawsuits. He said last Sunday, they had service, and officers and fire marshals tried to shut down them down.

So what does the governor say about this? 

Well, Gov. Greg Abbott’s directive is somewhat vague. He said religious services are considered essential but they should do it remotely or be consistent with the CDC guidelines.

If you check the CDC’s website, they ask people to avoid gatherings of 10 people or more.

City and county leaders say this is matter of public health.

“This is not the time to change course when you are still in the midst of the storm,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner.

KHOU 11 legal analyst Gerald Treece said the lawsuits have a legal basis, but court will have to weigh the interest of the community outside the church.

“It’s not just the people going to church service or religious service, but the people they may otherwise contact and effect and the government is trying to protect," Treece said. 

Attorney Woodfill said they will file lawsuits in Harris, Montgomery, Fort Bend and Galveston counties Wednesday. In the meantime, he said pastor Bustamante will have a service on Wednesday night. It’s unclear how many people will show up. But if he violates the county order, he could face a $1,000 fine and could face jail time of up to 180 days. For the full court filing, click here. For more on the attorney's comments, click here.

Coronavirus symptoms

The symptoms of coronavirus can be similar to the flu or a bad cold. Symptoms include a fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Some patients also have nausea, body aches, headaches and stomach issues. Losing your sense of taste and/or smell can also be an early warning sign.

Most healthy people will have mild symptoms. A study of more than 72,000 patients by the Centers for Disease Control in China showed 80 percent of the cases there were mild.

But infections can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death, according to the World Health Organization. Older people with underlying health conditions are most at risk for becoming seriously ill. However, U.S. experts are seeing a significant number of younger people being hospitalized, including some in ICU.

The CDC believes symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 14 days after being exposed.

Human coronaviruses are usually spread through...

  • The air by coughing or sneezing
  • Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.

Help stop the spread of coronavirus

  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Eat and sleep separately from your family members
  • Use different utensils and dishes
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with your arm, not your hand.
  • If you use a tissue, throw it in the trash.
  • Follow social distancing

Lower your risk

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • If you are 60 or over and have an underlying health condition such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or respiratory illnesses like asthma or COPD, the World Health Organization advises you to try to avoid crowds or places where you might interact with people who are sick.

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