ST. GEORGE — Choosing to go against Idaho’s statewide stay-at-home order, Ammon Bundy has offered up his own warehouse in Emmett, Idaho, for a group of church leaders to hold an Easter service Sunday.
Bundy, who originally posted the request for a venue Saturday on the Bundy Ranch Facebook page, told St. George News that after looking around for different locations in the Boise metropolitan area that could hold between 500 and 1000 people, he came up against several roadblocks.
“People are afraid,” Bundy said, adding that there were a few prospects, but none of them were quite right.
Due to these difficulties, Bundy said he decided that his 22,000 square-foot warehouse, located on private property in Emmett, was the best option. He said he won’t be the one conducting the service but that he was just helping find a venue and offering support. He plans to attend the service with his family.
The venue is open to “all religions, all people,” he said, adding that the service will be conducted by a religious group whose name he didn’t know. The group reached out to Bundy at one of his weekly in-person meetings, where there have been about 40 to 100 people in attendance, he said.
He said he wasn’t sure how many people to expect for the service but that about 100 people have showed interest.
“Maybe we only have 50,” he said. “Or I might be standing there with four or five other people. I don’t know. But we’re still going to have it, and we’re going to exercise our rights in that way.”
While Bundy said he doesn’t necessarily consider himself affiliated with the Libertarian Party, many of his sentiments regarding freedom of assembly are similar to those shared by the party.
Utah Libertarian Party Chair Amber Beltran told St. George News that the party tends to be data-driven, and it is some of this data that Bundy is questioning. In a separate Facebook post from Wednesday on the Bundy Ranch page, Bundy cites the statistics of COVID-19 cases in Idaho as follows:
- Total Cases: 0.067222222222222%
- Total Died: 0.0008333333333%
- Total Died This Week: 0.0000000000000000%
“And Idaho’s Health Director is still ordering lockdown,” Bundy wrote.
While Utah has reported only 13 deaths, which is far fewer than other states have seen since the start of the pandemic, Beltran said many libertarians are still working from home right now to protect against contracting the coronavirus.
In response to the Easter service being held at Bundy’s warehouse, she said the Libertarian Party is “against any violence or people that are threatening violence, but we do support people’s right to peacefully assemble and their right to practice what religion they choose.”
When Bundy was asked if people were going to quarantine themselves for 14 days following the event, he said it was up to the individuals to make the decision.
“They also were given equal liberties.”
He said he thinks there is a huge amount of exaggeration in regards to the threat of COVID-19.
“They have found a great justification to implementing state control,” he said, “and that is health – national health. And that is very concerning to me. So I feel like the most prudent thing for people to do is exercise their rights. This virus will come and go, but liberty certainly will not.”
In Saturday’s Facebook post, Bundy said that he actually wants to contract the coronavirus, “along with my family.” However, he told St. George News that is not the reason he is supporting the Easter event.
“Quarantine is actually going to kill people,” he said, “and history proves that.”
He reiterated his comments from the Facebook post that when smallpox made its way around the world, it was the people who hadn’t been exposed to it who were most vulnerable. As a 44-year-old healthy man, Bundy said he wants to get the virus now before it possibly “mutates and gets uglier.”
“People know the risk if they come (to the Easter service),” he said. “Those who feel like they’re not healthy enough to take the risk of getting coronavirus right now, then they have the choice to isolate themselves from society. But what should not happen is an order by government officials.”
The order in question was issued just over two weeks ago by Dave Jeppesen, the director of the Idaho Department of Health and Wellness, and instructed citizens to self-isolate. The order went into effect March 25 and is scheduled to last until April 15 or until otherwise acted upon in writing by Jeppesen.
“Gatherings of individuals outside the home are prohibited, with certain exceptions for essential activities or essential travel or to perform work for essential businesses and government agencies or perform essential infrastructure work,” the order states.
In response to this order, public response across the state of Idaho has been varied.
According to a New York Times article, Tim Remington, a Coeur d’Alene pastor who was appointed to the Idaho State House of Representatives in January, led a church service that was open to the public just four days after the order went into effect. And in Bonner County, where the largest city is Sandpoint, with a population of approximately 8,400, Sheriff Daryl Wheeler expressed his concern in a letter to the community that the public was being misled by public health officials.
On the other side, the New York Times article cited health care providers as saying they were “horrified” at the public calls to countermand social distancing. They warned that failing to take these measures could overwhelm Idaho’s small hospitals and put “large numbers of people at risk of dying.”
“Don’t take legal advice from a doctor,” Dr. Benjamin Good, an emergency medicine physician affiliated with Bonner General Health, said in the article. “And don’t take medical advice from a sheriff.”
As for Bundy, he said he wasn’t concerned about the stay-at-home order disrupting the event.
“Anyone who wishes to stay home has every right to. But no one has a right to force others to stay home, to close business or to force churches to not meet,” he said, “It’s not just about making a statement. It is truly giving people the opportunity to come together on Easter Sunday to show their gratitude for all the Lord has done for us.”
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