Just as he promised, former militia leader Ammon Bundy defied state orders banning public gatherings and held an Easter service, which was attended by more than 100 people. Bundy, who once led an armed occupation of federal land, addressed worshipers in a crowded warehouse in the small Idaho town of Emmett. "When you believe in Christ ... you will never infringe upon your neighbor's rights," he said.
A homemade sign reading "Defy martial law" was propped against the podium.
The rancher had vowed to hold Sunday services in defiance of rules to stem the spread of coronavirus by outlawing group activities. He issued an open invitation on his Facebook page, claiming the regulations violated constitutional rights to free assembly.
In a livestream of the Easter assembly, Bundy is seen praying and speaking with people sitting close together on folding chairs. He is also seen shaking hands with those in attendance, despite health warnings against touching people because it can transmit the virus.
As of Monday, Idaho had 1,426 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 27 reported deaths. Gov. Brad Little issued a statewide home confinement order on March 25.
State and local officials have said they were relying on people to voluntarily comply with the regulations so they could conserve manpower. Local prosecutors would issue citations if staffing permitted, authorities said.
In Bundy's livestream, there was no indication anyone had tried to stop the proceedings.
"I'm healthy, my family is healthy. I'd rather have it now so my body is immune to it," Bundy told CNN last week as he announced the religious ceremony. He initially said the gathering would include a pot-luck dinner, but later confined it to only an Easter service.
"Are you so afraid of death or being sick that you would allow other men and women to order how you must live?" Bundy wrote on his Facebook page Saturday.
Bundy generated national headlines in 2016, when he headed an armed occupation of federal wildlife land in Oregon. A trial followed, which ended in the dismissal of charges on grounds of prosecutorial misconduct.
He is the son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who waged a long battle against the Bureau of Land Management in 2014 over grazing rights for his cattle. The family had refused pay more than $1 million in federal fees.