California Allows Limited Reopening for Churches Days After Interventions by US State Department and President Trump
by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) – The state of California issued guidelines Monday under which houses of worship may reopen. The Department of Health guidelines were published even though the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s COVID-19 ban on public gatherings could stand. The decision to allow churches to reopen also follows interventions last week by the US State Department, which specified that California’s ban on church gatherings was unfair, and by President Trump, who called on all states to lift bans on religious assemblies.
Under the new guidelines, California churches can hold in-person services with up to 100 people, ABC News reports. Among other recommendations, churches are also requested to repeatedly sanitize pews, microphones, and other highly used areas and surfaces. Congregations are also required to sit in-household groups, six feet apart.
California has recently been at the center of religious freedom disputes as Gov. Newsom prohibited in-person services of any kind, even while most other states allowed them with varying restrictions. Earlier this month, a group of more than 3,000 churches told Newsom they would reopen at the end of May, whether or not he had lifted the ban, the Washington Examiner reports.
Supporting the churches, the US State Department wrote to the governor on Tuesday last week, informing him that his ban on services amounted to “unequal treatment of faith communities,” the Washington Examiner reported.
At a press conference on Friday President Trump stated that houses of worship “provide essential services” and should be opened immediately, the Washington Examiner reports. The president added he would “override the governors” if they did not allow reopening. Later, in an explanation of what he meant, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president “wants to see churches reopen in accordance with his guidelines” and that he will “strongly encourage every governor to allow their churches to reopen.”
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