Texas Opens Door For In-Person Church Services
4-27-20 Update: At a press conference today, Governor Abbott introduced a 3-Phase Plan to help get Texans back to work and open churches. Read more here.
Learn more with the Texas Church Reopening FAQ.
Today Governor Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton provided updated guidance to churches, softening previous language and opening the door for churches to start to conduct in-person services. This is the second guidance letter coming from state officials, the first having been released at the beginning of April, previously stating that churches “must” conduct services remotely, but that language has been changed.
“We are pleased that Texas is giving the green light for in-person religious services to resume. This guidance respects religious freedom and provides responsible recommendations for houses of worship to continue ministering while doing their part to slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Texas Values President and Attorney Jonathan Saenz.
The updated guidance letter released this afternoon took the form of a recommendation, saying houses of worship “should” conduct services remotely when possible and clarifying the government is making “only recommendations.” Language from the previous guidance letter limiting services to 10 or fewer people is also removed, giving the green light for churches to allow larger gatherings while maintaining social distancing. The guidance letter also specifically says: “To the extent there is conflict between the Governor’s Executive Order GA 16 and local orders, GA 16 controls. Local governments may not order houses of worship to close. “
Recommendations to houses of worship include:
- Encouraging attendees who are 65 years old and above to stay home and watch services online, or provide a “senior service” exclusively for attendees 65 and above to attend in person.
- Asking all attendees who have underlying at-risk health conditions to stay home and watch services online.
- Equipping ushers and greeters with protective equipment such as gloves as masks;
- Keeping child care closed unless churches can comply with CDC guidelines for child care facilities.
- Encouraging all attendees to sanitize their hands and put on masks before entering the building.
- Ensuring attendees to sit with their family unit and use social distancing between each unit, even, if necessary, adding more services times to facilitate social distancing.
- Having clergy dismiss attendees by family unit, maintaining social distancing.
- Having staff sanitize seats and frequently touched surfaces between services.
- Considering refraining from passing collection plates and instead provide a central collection box in the building or encouraging online giving.
- Considering how the sacraments can be administered without attendees having to touch the same surfaces and objections.
Read the full updated guidance from the Texas Governor and Attorney General here.
About Texas Values
Texas Values is the largest statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to standing for faith, family, and freedom in Texas. More information is available at txvalues.org.