Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee issued an executive order Tuesday stating that churches are strongly discouraged from worshiping in-person. Weddings and funerals should also be “postponed or attended only by close family members.”
Even though Lee states religious services are essential and not banned, he makes it clear that virtual church services are the best option. If a church does decide to hold in-person services, he has created a lengthy and exhaustive list of guidelines for them to follow. While Lee deems church services dangerous, “school sponsored sporting events and activities” are specifically permitted in the order and there is no mention of further governor guidelines for them.
The suggested protocols include everything from suspending after-church gatherings and refreshments to banning church choirs. If a church insists on having music, they are being asked to use soloists or small ensembles of individuals who must stand six feet apart and sing with face coverings.
Catholics and other Christian denominations are being asked to “modify distribution protocols” of communion and “avoid passing a plate or cup.”
Parishioners are told to sit six feet apart, wear face coverings, and not to “hug or shake hands.” Additionally, “older persons… should not gather in person until a later time.”
Church leaders are being encouraged to spread parishioners around church buildings and broadcast the service to different rooms in the building. Pastors and priests are also encouraged to consider inviting to the church “medical professionals to help develop best practices related to the health of your congregation.”
Before every service, church “staff and volunteers” should be subject to temperature screening and a COVID-19 symptom check. To increase circulation of outdoor air, the churches are being asked to “open windows and doors and use fans,” even in the winter.
“You need to look no further than the rhetoric of Representative AOC and the ‘Squad’ or the recent Cabinet picks of President Joe Biden to understand that we are in an ideological and spiritual war here in the United States; our Christian faith and conservative values are under direct assault,” Ogles continued. “Human beings are designed to worship God corporately, and together. It is so engrained in our DNA that it is a fundamental right of every person, as recognized by our First Amendment.”
Indeed, from the onset of the COVID-19 panic, state and local governments have gone to battle with churches, undermining religious freedom and bullying church leaders into cancelling services at a time in our nation’s history when citizens need them most. While government is unapologetically targeting churches, pot dispensaries, liquor stores, abortion clinics, and strip clubs have been deemed “essential” and given limited restrictions.