Waukesha County church left in limbo between state mask mandate, local guidelines: 'It's a maze'

Waukesha County continues to see spikes in COVID-19 cases and is fielding questions about the statewide mask mandate. One area church is sorting through it all.

"I think there is a responsibility on behalf of the church to care for each other. There's no question about that," said Pastor Doug Harper.

From limiting the worship space to 40% capacity to offering services online, Harper said COVID-19 has impacted White Stone Community Church in the Village of Summit in many ways. The latest hurdle came on Thursday, July 30 when Gov. Tony Evers announced a statewide mask mandate.

"It's a maze to try and get through. Our first call was actually to the Summit police," said Harper. 

Hours after Gov. Evers made the announcement, Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow issued a statement saying that the governor's emergency order "goes too far." Farrow also said the county's 911 dispatch center and sheriff's department were already receiving calls.

Pastor Doug Harper at White Stone Community Church

A spokesman for the Waukesha County Communications Center said "10 calls" have been placed about masks since Thursday, mainly to non-emergency dispatchers.

"Waukesha County is not making a great effort to enforce this, but just because there isn't enforcement doesn't mean a church shouldn't comply," Harper said.

The order came as Waukesha County's COVID-19 numbers peaked in July. As on Monday, Aug. 3, 8.8% of tests in the county are positive -- still higher that the state average.

Back at the church, there is a belief that masks are also an obligation.

"We did feel like we needed to comply," Harper said. "In Romans 13, it says God has put all authority in place and we are to be compliant to it."

While the county is telling people not to call emergency numbers to report mask issues, the Waukesha County Sheriff`s Department and dozens of other law enforcement agencies across the state have said they're not enforcing the order.