Last month we told you how Governor Northam created a special “snitch line” for people to anonymously report businesses, restaurants, and even churches to the Department of Health (DOH) if they are believed to be violating his Executive Orders. To find out what kind of complaints were being made and against whom, we submitted a FOIA request to the DOH for all reports made between June 15 and July 1.
Incredibly, we learned that within the first two weeks of this snitch line being available to the public there were 5,085 total complaints made to DOH, of which 1,332 were phone calls and 3,753 were comments submitted online. While the majority of the complaints made by people were aimed at businesses, there were 58 complaints made about churches or religious entities. Here’s a sampling of some of the kinds of complaints people made about religious services:
"[Church] Staff at times were seen hugging, standing closer to others than they should've been, and the poor example meant attendees did likewise. ...People were even greeted by unmasked faces and children were running wherever, despite the picnic being held in the parking lot and services having been kept online still."
“Over 100 people gathered in close quarters and we're not social distancing. Some were not even wearing masks.”
“Church attendees not adhering to 6 foot social distancing guidelines.”
“You can view on their instagram page that nobody was wearing masks [link included] as well as their youtube page where they livestream: [link included] ...you would see that people would just walk right up, including the pastor..."
“They were hugging without masks”
“They have had several bbqs”
“They were all gathered around one individual with way less than 6 feet and were laying hands on each other"
"Singing as a congregation without face coverings."
"They are serving food to community kids without proper gloves or wearing masks.”
"Everyone congregated together in the main entrance, hugging!"
"Funeral attendees and employees of the establishment were not wearing face coverings during funeral ceremony in chapel. Social distancing was not enforced."
"Narcotics Anonymous meets at this address Tuesday and Thursday evenings. The number of attendees exceeds guidelines. Few are wearing masks."
As expected there were a number of comments that were either rude or just plain derogatory, and not meant to be taken seriously. Interestingly, though, about half of the total complaints were actually directed at Governor Northam and expressed their disapproval his Executive Orders.
With more and more churches beginning to hold in-person services, the more opportunities that Governor Northam’s administration – through the use of anonymous informants – will have to surveil them. The Family Foundation will continue to monitor this issue and provide you with any updates as we learn about them.