In spite of a statewide stay-home order issued by Governor Brad Little March 25 and updated April 2 in response to the COVID-19 crisis, at least one Bonners Ferry church has continued to gather for Sunday services.
"All people in Idaho shall immediately cease hosting or participating in all public and private gatherings and multi-person activities for social, spiritual and recreational purposes, regardless of the number of people involved," Little's order reads.
Saying "the violation of any provision of this Order constitutes an imminent threat to public health," the governor declares violations of its provisions a misdemeanor under Title 56 of Idaho Code, Public Assistance and Welfare, Chapter 10, Department of Health and Welfare, and directs Idaho Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police as well Idaho State Police to ensure compliance.
The maximum penalty for a misdemeanor conviction in Idaho is not more than six months in jail and or up to a $1,000 fine per offense.
Passers by said the parking lot at the Lordship Church, 6606 Main Street, Bonners Ferry, an interdenominational "free church" that does not hold tax-exempt status, was filled at around 11 a.m. Sunday, April 5, the service time listed on the church website.
A video of the service of March 29, "Savorless Salt," is posted on the website, showing no one but pastor Warren Campbell, who greets those gathered, asks them to open their Bibles to Isaiah 59, verse one, and asks "why are we meeting today? ... Why would we defy the governor's orders?"
He tells his congregation that they should take the health threat seriously and do their best to uphold the isolation order, then errs, saying Governor Otter's order, chuckles as he is corrected by an unseen parishioner, then continues, "we believe that God can hear our prayers, that he answers our prayers and that his arm is not so short that he can't reach down and save and heal us, so we believe that what we are doing today is extremely important and also that it's a mandate of our heavenly father, so we actually have no option."
No video of last Sunday's sermon has been posted.
No other church in Boundary County has defied the governor's order, most having gone to "virtual" services that allow the congregations to meet and interact electronically.
The Altar Church in Coeur d'Alene, led by Pastor and Idaho Congressman Tim Remington, also held services March 29, prompting widespread ire and prompting the church board to override their pastor and close the church doors and show the service electronically.
Remington, appointed by Governor Little January 28 to District two, Seat B, in the Idaho House after John Green was expelled following a federal conspiracy conviction, said he was disappointed in the board's decision but would obey.