State Guidelines for Reopening Places of Worship Coming by Monday, Newsom Says

May 22, 2020

California officials will unveil guidelines by Monday, at the latest, for reopening places of worship, Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Friday.

During a briefing at a veterans home in the Napa Valley town of Yountville, Newsom said his administration was finalizing details on rules to allow churches, mosques, synagogues and other houses of worship statewide to begin offering modified in-person services. He did not, however, give a specific timeline for when those services could actually resume.

“It’s so important that folks understand we deeply understand, admire, the faith devotion,” Newsom said, noting that his office has been discussing the issue with faith leaders across the state. “We look forward to churches reopening in a safe and responsible manner.”

California is one of 10 states to bar in-person religious gatherings of any form as part of its ongoing shelter-in-place order to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Newsom’s announcement came just after President Donald Trump declared places of worship “essential” and threatened to “override” governors if they refused to allow churches to open “right now” — although it’s unclear if he has authority to do so. Newsom was warned this week by Trump’s Justice Department that the state’s phased-in plan to restart economic activity puts an “unfair burden” on worship by not permitting churches to open earlier in the process.

More than 1,200 California pastors — primarily from evangelical congregations — are planning to restart worship on May 31 despite Newsom’s orders.

State officials “don’t understand that people of faith need contact, that they need to worship together,” said Danny Carroll of Water of Life Community Church in Fontana, one of the pastors leading the call to reopen. “We’re trying to close the gap — thoughtfully, humbly, nicely.”

— Matthew Green (@MGreenKQED) with additional reporting from the Associated Press.

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