CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A petition to cancel this weekend's Love Life Week 40 Prayer Walk is gaining traction online.
As of Thursday afternoon, more than 139,000 people had signed the online petition.
Reiley Baker, who started the petition, wrote: “I am calling for the forced cancellation of this event in order to protect the safety and health of our community and its citizens from a further worsening of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
According to the Love Life Facebook page, the event is supposed to be “a 40-week campaign uniting and mobilizing The Church to create a culture of Love and Life that will bring an end to abortion and the orphan crisis.”
Baker volunteers with a group that works with the abortion clinic in the area where the prayer walks take place.
After seeing people crowded together with few people wearing masks at previous weekly prayer walks, Baker said she decided to put the petition online.
"We usually count the number of attendees and the number of people that wear masks, and I think out of around like 150 people last Saturday, 20 wore masks,” Baker said. “So, it's very scary, like assuming that they're going to be behaving the same."
Baker said not much can be done to stop people from standing outside the clinic, which is why she's focusing on the COVID-19 protocols and calling for the event to be canceled to protect the safety and health of the community.
"Unfortunately, you can't do anything about people standing outside abortion clinics, but you can do something about people gathering during a global pandemic, so I think we're focusing only on the health implications," Baker explained.
Videos posted to Love Life’s Facebook page of last year’s event, which was before the COVID-19 pandemic began, show what appears to be thousands of people across several cities taking part in the Week 40 event.
Baker is worried this gathering will be a super-spreader event for the virus and may put other people at risk.
"I would ask them to put the health of our community before anything else,” she said. “Just like looking at the United House of Prayer in Charlotte, I just have a really bad feeling that this is going to be a repeat of that."
WCNC Charlotte reached out to Love Life representatives for an on-camera interview, but they declined our request and referred us to their statement on Facebook.
The statement reads:
“Love Life's mission is to activate the local church in our city to continue helping hurting moms and families and give them real options and loving choices. With the help of our partnering churches and ministries, Love Life has provided housing, jobs, baby showers, mentoring and additional resources to many of the 2,300+ families that have chosen life on the sidewalks over the last four years. In 2017 Love Life expanded our outreach to bring hope to hopeless children through our Orphan Care Ministry focused on foster care and adoption options. As the Church unites and mobilizes in and around Charlotte, we will continue to see the culture shift from death to life as more families run to the Church and stop running to the abortion centers.
This year, we are doing our part to keep all of our prayer walk participants safe during the Coronavirus pandemic. Masks and hand sanitizer are provided at all prayer walk locations. We encourage all participating to wear face coverings, especially in states and cities where they are mandated. For those who are medically fragile or who live in households with at-risk family members, we are encouraging you to participate online. A live-streamed event will be taking place across all of our Week 40 locations via www.lovelife.org/live”
WCNC Charlotte also reached out to Mecklenburg County officials to see if the county is aware of the event and if health officials have talked to event organizers about COVID-19 safety protocols. Once a response is received, this story will be updated.
On Thursday, North Carolina broke another record for its highest daily case count.
Given the statistics, Baker reiterated the reasoning as to why it should be enough to call off the event.
"This is beyond First Amendment rights," Baker explained. "This is the public health and safety of everyone. I would argue in all of North Carolina. If you consider yourself a pro-life group, let's consider the lives of the people around us and safely follow the COVID restrictions and guidelines."