BERLIN, N.J. (CBS) — A Camden County pastor plans to sue New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy if he doesn’t deem places of worship essential. Solid Rock Baptist, in Berlin, held an in-person service Sunday morning, where Pastor Charles Clark III told Eyewitness News of his plans to sue the governor.

Staff members at Solid Rock Baptist Church say they’ve taken precautions to make sure everyone is safe.

Some religious leaders Eyewitness News spoke to say it’s their constitutional right to gather and the people have the right to worship during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re going to do this as safely as possible,” Clark said.

Worship inside Solid Rock Baptist Church resumed Sunday against the governor’s stay-at-home order. Clark urged the governor to reopen churches fully.

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“We are here exercising our First Amendment rights,” Clark said. “Our lawsuit is prepared. The Bible Baptist Church of Clementon is meeting today and their church and our church will jointly sue our governor this week if things are not changed.”

Clark’s dad, Pastor Charles Clark Jr., called Murphy a “tyrant.”

Camden County public safety officers were at the church installing cameras to monitor the situation from their command center. They said they had no plans to shut the service down.

A spokesperson from the governor’s office says reopening places of worship is under consideration as New Jersey moves toward Phase 2 of reopening. The spokesperson had no comment on the potential lawsuit.

“People coming to our church will have a touchless temperature taken,” Clark said. “Anybody 100.4 and above will not be able to come into the church building.”

Eyewitness News is told church members spent much of Saturday sanitizing the sanctuary in preparation for Sunday service. It holds about 1,000 people, but only 250 people will be allowed inside. They were required to sit six feet apart.

Other worshippers will be able to view service on a screen in the church gym.

On Friday, President Donald Trump deemed houses of worship essential and pushed governors to open them during the pandemic.

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The CDC published recommendations to prevent exposure to COVID-19 in churches, synagogues and other religious facilities. It includes temporarily limiting the sharing of frequently touched objects like prayer rugs, prayer books and hymnals.

In Gloucester Township, pastors at Bethel Church say they hope to start in-person services next Sunday.

“Our plan is to have a very abbreviated service and leave about an hour between each service,” pastor Curt Kinney said.


Staff members will sanitize the building during the hour.

Meanwhile, Bishop Dennis Sullivan of the Diocese of Camden posted a statement recently, saying in part, “the suspension of masses was just and necessary.”

Eyewitness News contacted the Berlin Borough Police Department. There is no word if the church will face any citations. The police department would only say it’s an ongoing investigation.