Churches Are “Essential Services” Say Gov. Abbott & AG Paxton in New COVID-19 Guidance
Governor Abbott made churches essential services in his recent Executive Order on social distancing practices that will continue until April 30. Making churches essential services means that churches are allowed to hold services as long as they follow social distancing guidelines.
According to an analysis by the Office of the Attorney General, churches must, whenever possible, conduct their activities through remote audio or remote video services. However, if a house of worship cannot conduct its activities remotely, then the White House and CDC guidelines still control in order to stop the spread of the Coronavirus. This means that churches that cannot conduct its services remotely must do the following:
- Instruct sick employees, volunteers, and guests to stay home;
- Practice social distancing by maintaining appropriate distance between people;
- Maintain good hygiene by washing your hands frequently, using hand sanitizer, using your elbow to cover coughs, and not touching your face; and
- Clean and disinfect work areas frequently
Churches are also allowed to hold services where members remain in their cars with the windows rolled down in a church parking lot. Churches can also hold multiple services of 10 people at a time. Nevertheless, the Office of Attorney General states that some churches must avoid gatherings of large groups of people. The Office of Attorney General also notes that restrictions do not violate the First Amendment due to the stop of the contagion of COVID-19 is a compelling state interest and allowing ministries to still conduct operations, yet differently, is a least restrictive means of achieving that interest.