Franklin County Sheriff won’t stop churches, small businesses from reopening in safe manner

Franklin County Fcso
Franklin County Sheriff's Office

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Wash. — Franklin County Sheriff Jim Raymond won’t stop churches and small businesses from reopening in a safe manner during the coronavirus pandemic.

Raymond issued a letter Monday in response to citizens who have expressed concern over Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order for Washington state.

The sheriff harshly criticized the order, saying Inslee “has overstepped his constitutional powers and is trying to control us under the guise of protecting us.”

In the letter, Raymond wrote that while he believes social distancing and other steps to slow down spreading of the corona virus are important, he also believes adults capable of policing themselves and adjusting their habits.

He wrote that he has observed churches responsibly implementing social distancing practices.

Citing a local pastor, the sheriff’s letter falsely stated that Inslee and state Attorney General Bob Ferguson sent letters to churches statewide saying drive-in services were not allowed. Raymond called the letters to the churches “a gross overreach and intrudes on our religious freedoms and constitutional rights.”

The attorney general’s office told KAPP-KVEW no such letters were sent to churches. The sheriff issued a retraction of the erroneous statement Tuesday morning and apologized to the governor and attorney general’s offices, but stood by the overall message of his letter.

The letter goes on to say that privately owned businesses are suffering “immensely” from the stay-at-home order, and that citizens have been deprived of their rights to earn and live.

Raymond said Inslee is “trampling on our constitutional rights” through his stay-at-home order, and that “his only plan is to keep us in limbo by stating that he will probably have to extend the order.”

“One size does not fit all. Each Community in our state is fundamentally different. Over the past four weeks, you and I have certainly learned how to comport ourselves, individually and as a community, in a safe manner.”

He said small businesses are able to employ the same practices as “essential” ones.

Raymond said he will not be enforcing the order against churches and small businesses that reopen as long as these establishments do so in a safe and logical manner.

CORRECTION: This article previously said that Inslee and Ferguson sent letters to churches saying drive-in church services were not allowed, as mentioned in the sheriff’s letter. This claim was written without attribution and was determined to be false.