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Church Gatherings Amid Coronavirus Shelter-In-Place Order Spark Death Threats

ROSEVILLE (CBS13) — Church gatherings during the coronavirus shelter-in-place order have sparked threats of violence that warrant a police response.

On Tuesday afternoon, a suspicious package was sent to the Abundant Life Fellowship in Roseville. The pastor, Doug Bird, thinks it was directly connected to social media threats he received after he held a service last weekend. Bird said he's now canceled in-person services, but only because he was forced too.

"I'm not canceling because of any other reason except for the threats toward our church and our people," Bird said.

Last week, members of Cross Culture Christian Center in Lodi were physically locked out of their building after refusing to stop services. The pastor there and his attorney now dealing with death threats that had to be reported to the police. This, as they continue to search for a new location to hold services.

READ: Coronavirus And Homeless: Sacramento City Council Approves $15M Homeless Response Plan

"This is entirely different than the typical challenges that confront law enforcement. It's not anything that's happened in recent years," said former Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness.

McGinness said local police get caught in the middle of monitoring and enforcing the shelter in place, then responding to the tension it creates.

"It's absolutely another burden when law enforcement resources are already stretched," McGinness said.

READ: Coronavirus Update: Sacramento County Extends Stay-At-Home Order Through May 1

Ahead of Easter weekend, the right to worship pitted against a community need for social distancing. McGinness said he hopes churches make the right choice.

"It's a strong call for people to heed this directive and do the right thing. If you want to challenge the authority of the state file a petition with the court and do so. But meantime, comply," he said.

CBS13 spoke to a few local police departments who are not planning to increase patrols near churches this weekend. But, they already have more officers than normal patrolling communities in general.

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