Case Settled For Horseheads Church At Center Of Fatal COVID Cluster

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TOMPKINS COUNTY, NY (WSKG) – Chemung County announced it has reached an out of court settlement with the Lighthouse Baptist Church in Horseheads, NY.

The church filed a federal suit against the county government, claiming it violated the it’s First Amendment rights of church goers when it issued ordered the church closed during the COVID-19 outbreak.

In September, a COVID-19 outbreak linked to church lead to the infection of over 70 people and at least two deaths.

Photo courtesy of Lighthouse Baptist Church of Horseheads

The church refused to cooperate with contract tracing until it was served a subpoena by the county. Contact tracing involved residents of six counties.

County attorney M. Hyder Hussain announced part of the settlement allows the church to resume operations as long as it follows federal, state and local laws and regulations related to public health.

Church pastor Richard Hack said, “Lighthouse said all along that we would comply with New York State guidelines, but the county insisted that we go well above and beyond those guidelines as a condition of reopening.”

Horseheads currently is part of an orange zone in New York state, the second highest alert level. According to state guidelines, religious gatherings are limited to 33 percent of normal capacity or no more than 25 people.