News and Commentary

California Unveils New Guidelines After Trump Calls For Houses Of Worship To Reopen
Gavin Newsom, governor of California, speaks during a news conference in Sacramento, California, U.S., on Tuesday, April 14, 2020. Newsom outlined his plan to lift restrictions in the most-populous U.S. state, saying a reopening depends on meeting a series of benchmarks that would remake daily life for 40 million residents.
Rich Pedroncelli / AP / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA) unveiled the new public health guidelines for houses of worship in California on Monday, several days after President Trump publicly called on services to resume as “essential” parts of American life. 

“Counties can now begin re-opening houses of worship and in-store shopping for retail,” said Newsom. “CA has continued to flatten the curve because folks are staying home, practicing physical distancing, and taking this seriously.”

While the governor’s announcement says that houses of worships can resume operations, Newsom has repeatedly stressed that individual counties have the authority to implement stricter public health guidelines than the state’s own guidelines. Thus it’s unclear how many counties will actually allow houses of worship to promptly resume operations. 

Newsom originally claimed churches would not be able to reopen until phase three of his four-phase plan, but he appears to have modified this plan amidst pressure from the Trump administration and from religious leaders across the state who said they were planning to hold services on May 31 with or without the governor’s approval.

“These are places that hold our society together and keep our people united. The people are demanding to go to church and synagogue, go to their mosque,” said the president during an address on Friday. “The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important, essential places of faith to open right now, or this weekend.”

Under California’s new 13-page guidelines, places of worship must cap attendance at 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever represents the lower threshold. The limits on attendance remain in place “for the first 21-days of a county public health department’s approval of religious services and cultural ceremonies activities at places of worship.”

The guidelines also encourage houses of worship to continue virtual services instead of resuming in-person services. If in-person services are held, the guidelines encourage houses of worship to adopt “a reservation system” and “strongly consider discontinuing singing, group recitation, and other practices and performances where there is increased likelihood for transmission from contaminated exhaled droplets,” among dozens of other recommendations. 

As The Daily Wire previously reported, the Department of Justice sent a letter to California last week informing the governor that his public health guidelines were discriminating against houses of worship and pointed out that the previous reopening plans placed houses of worship in stage three, along with movie theaters and salons. 

“California has not shown why interactions in offices and studios of the entertainment industry, and in-person operations to facilitate nonessential ecommerce, are included on the list as being allowed with social distancing where telework is not practical, while gatherings with social distancing for purposes of religious worship are forbidden, regardless of whether remote worship is practical or not,” said the letter. 

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  California Unveils New Guidelines After Trump Calls For Houses Of Worship To Reopen