While many states have issued orders asking people to stay at home, limit travel to essential business, and avoid gathering in groups, Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver is promoting an event for next week that he’s calling ‘Re-Open Church.’ While churches have been encouraged to continue holding services online, and parking lot services have allowed congregations to gather without contact, Staver is calling for churches to “open the doors” and promoting ideas for in-person services, inside the buildings, to resume.
Earlier this month, CNN reported that at least 70 cases of COVID-19 had been traced to a single church. Around the same time, as reported by BBC, a pastor died of the virus after declaring social distancing orders to be ‘hysteria’ and traveling to Mardi Gras to preach.
Many churches have taken this to heart, and have moved services online, either offering teleconference calls or recorded video sermons. However, the Liberty Counsel says orders to temporarily stop in-person services amount to criminalizing Christianity, and in Virginia, they’re suing to overturn those restrictions.
However, the right-wing religious-liberty-focused organization isn’t waiting for the courts to make a decision. They’re pushing churches to re-open their doors next Sunday, May 4th. In a video, Staver suggests that churches could have online or parking lot services. However, churches have been doing this throughout the quarantine period, and he also invites churches to “open the doors,” and offers a full page (pdf) of suggestions for in-person services.
His suggestions include increasing the number of services, limiting seating, and having ushers direct families to selected pews in order to maintain distance. While recommending that family groups are placed at least 6 feet apart from one another, the document also suggests that church daycare is a good option for children during these services. In setting their target date as May 4, the Liberty Counsel has cited the Trump Administration’s mention of May 1 as a point for the first phase of re-opening the country.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on re-opening the country still states that at this time, minimizing the spread requires avoiding exposure.
The most common way to catch the virus that causes COVID-19 is from close contact with other people. Avoiding gatherings of people and practicing social distancing can help reduce the chances of exposure to the virus. Make sure to comply with any orders your state has issued about sheltering in place or staying at home.
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Steph Bazzle reports on social issues and religion for Hill Reporter. She focuses on stories that speak to everyone's right to practice what they believe in and receive the support of their communities and government officials. You can reach her at Steph@HillReporter.com