Albuquerque church breaks governor’s order with in-person Easter service

Coronavirus New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – This holiday, not all churches followed the governor’s new order banning mass gatherings at places of worship. KRQE News 13 cameras caught dozens of people at the Living Water Miracle Center at Edith and Osuna.

One person told us he saw at least 40 cars in the church’s parking lot. He believes the people and the pastor took a big health risk today.

“Random churches are disobeying the orders having mass. It’s a slap in the face to everyone,” he says.

Video from Sunday afternoon shows the church’s parking lot packed with cars. The church also live-streamed a number of baptisms today.

The video shows there are clearly more than five people in the church who are not standing at least six feet apart. It was just Saturday that the governor said churches are no longer exempt from the public health emergency order.

Pastor Richard Johnson admits people were standing closer than they should have, and says he went through with the service because the governor’s order came last minute. “Overnight, the day right before Easter, you change it. So, I couldn’t really change a lot of my plans and a lot of stuff that I was doing,” says Pastor Johnson.

Johnson says he’s not trying to cause any problems and was providing a service for people who need help during this time. He says he’s practiced social distancing by seating families into groups, keeping them six feet apart from other families.

A spokesperson for the governor’s office says this behavior is concerning because it violates the state’s health order and puts the larger public at danger. Johnson also says starting Sunday, he will hold all of his services online through Facebook Live and no one will be allowed in the church until the order is lifted.

BCSO says they are not able to enforce or cite anyone not following the mass gathering order, only New Mexico State Police can do that.

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