Health officials in Nashville, Tennessee, are investigating an outdoor religious concert that they say took place downtown without a permit on Sunday and drew large crowds of people who weren’t wearing masks.
“We have worked very hard to slow the spread of COVID by taking a measured approach to protect the community,” according to a statement from the Metro Public Health Department in Nashville.
“The Health Department is very concerned by the actions that took place at the event and we are investigating and will pursue appropriate penalties against the organizer.”
Sean Feucht, a Christian worship musician in Northern California and creator of the faith-based political activist movement Hold The Line, led the event in front of the Nashville Metro Courthouse on Sunday.
“We can gather thousands out here,” he said in a video message posted to Twitter before the event, inviting followers to come worship with him. “It’s officially a protest, so it’s legal.”
Videos shared by Feucht after the event showed hundreds, if not thousands, of people gathered close together at a public square as they sang worship songs. Most of them were not wearing face coverings.
Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake criticized the event, saying that the organizers did not coordinate with the police department in advance.
“At a time when Nashville has been making real progress at controlling the spread of the coronavirus, I am greatly disappointed that the organizer of Sunday’s event and those in attendance did not better prioritize their health and the health of others through social distancing and the wearing of face coverings,” he said in a statement. “Personal responsibility is a necessity regardless of the purpose for a public event.
Drake added that the department was also reviewing the event.
Organizer has held similar events in other cities
Feucht, who ran and lost in a March primary for California’s 3rd Congressional District seat, addressed the health department’s investigation on Twitter.
“On the same day the World Health Organization warned the world against lockdowns, Nashville launched an effort to selectively target Christians for harassment and punishment,” he said in a statement. “There’s no need for an investigation here.”
Feucht appeared to be referring to an interview that Dr. David Nabarro, a WHO special envoy on Covid-19, did with The Spectator, a conservative British magazine. Nabarro told the magazine that WHO does not recommend lockdowns as the primary way to control the coronavirus, but rather as means to “buy you time to reorganize, regroup and rebalance your resources.”
Feucht dismissed statements from authorities who had called the gathering irresponsible.
“Thousands of Christians gathered together responsibly and peaceably to sing and pray in accordance with the First Amendment, because we are tired of government officials telling us when, where, and how we can practice our Faith.”
CNN has reached out to Feucht for comment.
Feucht has been holding events such as these across the country over the past few months. Another outdoor concert his organization held in Redding, California, in July drew similar criticism from health authorities, prompting them to ask attendees to self-quarantine for 14 days, get tested and monitor for possible symptoms.