Trump challenges state limits on worship gatherings
Calling churches “essential,” President Donald Trump urged them to resume in-person gatherings as early as Memorial Day weekend. The President’s statement amplified differences in how local, state, and national leaders are trying to curb the spread of Coronavirus, while also getting back to some form of normal life. Some church leaders, Christianity Today reports, feel their states are treating churches unfairly by allowing businesses to open, but continuing to limit worship gatherings.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have released new guidelines for communities of faith beginning to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, called the guidelines “reasonable and helpful.”
“The CDC guidance,” Moore said May 22, “will come as a reassurance to many churches that their hard work in planning out the path back to worship is, in most cases, in line with the recommendations of health officials.”
>Related: Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker encouraged faith leaders to continue online and drive-in worship services. All regions in the state are expected to move into phase 3 of Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan May 29, which keeps the limit on religious gatherings at 10 people or fewer.
>Related: Church and denominational leaders in Illinois, including IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams, have drafted a letter to Gov. Pritzker offering perspective on how the state’s reopening plan is impacting churches, and asking him to more strongly consider churches’ needs. Illinois pastors can add their names to the letter by the evening of Tuesday, May 26.
California church appeals to Supreme Court
A Pentecostal church in San Diego will take its case against the state’s ban on worship gatherings to the U.S. Supreme Court. Arguing on behalf of South Bay United Pentecostal Church, attorney Tom Brejcha of the Thomas More Society says the state’s four-phase reopening plan (which groups churches with “higher risk” workplaces like salons and movie theaters) is “a blatant violation of the Free Exercise Clause of our First Amendment.”
Chicago fines churches for reopening early
Three Chicago churches were fined $500 each for violating Illinois’ stay-at-home order by meeting May 17. The churches, none of which are Southern Baptist, had various social distancing measures in place when their congregations met, the Illinois Baptist reports.
Churches work together on city-wide, virtual VBS
Several congregations in Tallahassee, Fla., will have the opportunity to reach thousands of families unable to attend a traditional Vacation Bible School this summer. The VBS, which will be livestreamed for one week in June, already has 20 partner churches signed up to participate.
Source: Christianity Today, CDC, ERLC, Illinois Baptist, Christian Post, Baptist Press