Under State And Federal Pressure, Norman Mayor Buckles And Eases Virus Restrictions On Churches

May 9, 2020

Facing accusations of religious discrimination from Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter and U.S. Attorney Timothy Downing, Norman Mayor Breea Clark on Friday announced that she would amend the city's order meant to limit the spread of COVID-19 and allow places of worship to hold in-person services sooner than she originally intended.

"Our 'Healthier At Home' initiative will be amended, yet again," Clark said. "Although our restriction on in-person services for places of worship has been consistent with both our restrictions on comparable mass gathering venues and identical restrictions on in-person services by the state's earlier proclamations, I will not feud with the federal government."

The change takes place in time for this week's Sunday services. Clark had previously said she consulted with clergy when developing the order.

Clark said she still believed in her initial actions.

"None of the decisions made to date were made to hurt businesses or to infringe on rights: they were made to protect people," she said in her Friday Facebook video announcement. "The president said let the governors handle it. The governor said let the mayors handle it. So I did."

Before Clark's announcement, Hunter told KWGS he expected the mayor would ultimately fall in line with his recommendations.

"I’m confident that the City of Norman is going to do the right thing today and through the weekend. I’ve given the advice that it was my responsibility to provide," Hunter said.

"Norman’s in a situation where they are not treating everybody in the same way," Hunter said. "And particularly when, again as I said, you’ve got First Amendment–protected assemblies; you can’t disadvantage those with respect to how you’re treating commercial entities that are reopening."