North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest asks Gov. Roy Cooper to give North Carolinians their freedoms back.

Forest is the Republican candidate for governor running against Cooper, who is a Democrat, in the November general election.

In a press release on Wednesday, May 6, Forest questions why some entities like big box stores have entirely different regulations for gatherings than churches or restaurants. Under the Phase 1 restrictions, churches are limited to indoor gatherings of a maximum of 10 people while stores are allowed up to 50 percent of their legal occupancy.

He also asks why people can be trusted to social distance at parks but not in outdoor dining at restaurants, which continues to be outlawed under the Phase 1 restrictions.

Forest states, “When we have over one million citizens on unemployment (with less than half of those receiving benefits), countless medical surgeries and screenings delayed, and businesses on the brink of permanent closure, it is time to do everything possible to give people a chance to live and utilize their God-given freedom once again. If we are able to social distance outside at parks, why are we not able to do the same in outdoor seating at restaurants? If we are able to congregate at 50% capacity in big box stores, why can we not do the same with social distancing at our houses of worship? It is way past due for the Governor to shift strategies and put measures in place that restore our freedoms in a responsible manner.”

During a state of emergency the governor has the power to issue orders that have the force of law and cannot be challenged by the legislature. Forest in his press release indicates this power may have gone to Cooper’s head.

Forest states, “The Governor’s Phase 1 rollout makes it clear that he feels that only he can protect us from this virus. He does not believe that North Carolinians have enough self-control, restraint, or common sense to act responsibly in a world with COVID-19. While his announcement finally recognized that all jobs are essential, his new order changes very little across our state. For a state that prides itself on being ‘First in Freedom,’ the Governor has repeatedly denied North Carolinians the freedom to make decisions for themselves, their families, and their livelihoods. I understand completely the cautious approach that he and governors around the country took two months ago, where there was so much uncertainty around how this virus could attack someone. However, with all the data publicly available from other states, there is no need to continue using fear to drive policy decisions.”