This week, Governor Abbott and I issued guidance for religious services that seeks to do three things:
- Ensure Texans’ right to freely worship.
- Provide guidance to churches, synagogues, and mosques for safely conducting Constitutionally protected worship services.
- Protect all Texans from the spread of the coronavirus.
The Governor and I strongly agree that this crisis must not be allowed to erode the fundamental, God-given rights of all Texans.
We also agree that flattening the curve of the coronavirus spread to give our healthcare system the maximum opportunity to prepare and respond to those that fall ill is necessary to weather this storm. This is essential to bringing life in Texas back to a state of normalcy as quickly as possible, with as few fatalities as possible.
All Texans must work together to stop the spread of COVID-19, and houses of worship face a particular challenge as we work to combat this pandemic. This guidance provides clear direction for houses of worship to protect the health and safety of Texans as they continue to hold religious services, exercise their religious liberty, and serve their faith communities.
This guidance defines religious services conducted in churches, congregations, and houses of worship as essential services. Local governments must, therefore, assure that restrictive orders do not violate these rights.
Under this guidance, houses of worship must, whenever possible, conduct their activities from home or through remote audio or video services.
If a house of worship cannot conduct its service remotely due to a lack of capability (technological or financial), then it should follow the Governor’s Executive Order for essential services.
- Instruct sick employees, volunteers, and guests to stay home.
- Practice social distancing by maintaining appropriate distance between people.
- Maintain good hygiene by washing hands frequently, using hand sanitizer, using elbows to cover coughs, and avoid face touching.
- Clean and disinfect work areas frequently.
Houses of worship, like providers of other essential services, are to follow additional guidance from the White House and CDC whenever possible.
This is an unprecedented time for Texas, the nation, and the world. We must embrace — rather than reject — the fundamental rights that have made us the freest, most prosperous country on Earth.
This guidance seeks to uphold our most cherished rights while also addressing the pressing public health challenge.
I am asking everyone to do their part to protect themselves and each other while holding to our highest ideals and values.
The coronavirus threat will end. Life will return to normal. We must be vigilant to ensure that the Texas we love is the Texas we still have when it does.