The US Justice Department has defended a Virginia church that violated the coronavirus measures according to state officials, saying there should be “a balance” between safety and freedom.

The decision was made public after the Lighthouse Fellowship Church on Chincoteague Island sued Governor Ralph Northam late April after police served a summons to pastor Kevin Wilson for holding the Palm Sunday service on April 5 with 16 people.

Wilson is facing up to one year in prison or up to $2,500 in fine for violating social distancing and stay at home order to stem the spread of the virus.

“The Governor has offered no good reason so far for refusing to trust the congregants who promise to use care in worship in just the same way it trusts accountants, lawyers, and laundromat workers to do the same,” the department said in a statement of interest obtained by Fox News.

Virginia State has 660 virus-related fatalities and nearly 19,000 cases, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

While over half of the US, 31 of the 50 states, will start reopening to varying degrees within the coming days, many Americans are growing restless with the lockdown.

Although the economic blow of the coronavirus has been dire in the US — over 30 million people have applied for unemployment benefits in the six weeks — so too have the fatalities.

The US is the country hardest-hit by the global pandemic with 1,158,341 confirmed cases and 67,686 fatalities.

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