In a sign of how religious privilege is dangerous to our health, Los Angeles County in California is going to allow churches to open back up for in-person worship services in time for Christmas, with the bare minimum when it comes to restrictions.
… Places of worship are permitted to offer faith-based services both indoors and outdoors with mandatory physical distancing and face coverings over both the nose and mouth that must be worn at all times while on site. Places of worship must also assure that attendance does not exceed the number of people who can be accommodated while maintaining a physical distance of six feet between separate households.
Public Health strongly recommends that places of worship continue to hold services outdoors, with physical distancing and the use of face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to congregants and to the entire community.
They’re recommending that services be held outdoors, but they can’t force it. Which means a lot of dangerous indoor church services are about to take place this week.
Officials cite a recent Supreme Court decision saying churches can’t be treated differently from other “essential services,” but there are obvious differences between churches and grocery stores, shopping centers, and laundromats. At churches, you’re expected to talk to each other, sing, and linger. When I get groceries, I’m in and out with minimal interaction with anyone else. Also, sermons can be delivered online. You can’t get food through Facebook.
Even though all churches which choose to open up will be required to maintain social distancing (between households) and require face masks, it’s still an unnecessary risk when the vaccine is not available to most people. And does anyone seriously think local officials will penalize a church for breaking these rules? We’ve seen plenty of evidence that people foolish enough to go to these indoor events are incapable of maintaining that distance.
And while local official may have felt like they had no choice in this matter, every church has a choice in whether to expose their members to COVID, just as church members can choose whether to put their families at risk. Any church that decides to host an in-person Christmas service is acting irresponsibly and ought to take responsibility for any sicknesses that emerge as a result of their willful arrogance.
All of this is happening as the COVID count is surging in the county while the number of available hospital beds shrinks quickly.
We ought to be shutting things down as much as possible — certainly for things that people can do from home. Worship easily falls on that list. (God can hear you from anywhere, I’m told.) Instead, we’re going to see more preachers open up more churches for Christmas extravaganzas in the name of “freedom,” all because they refuse to take the virus seriously and just don’t care who gets hurt in the process.
How many more people have to die before pastors realize the virus doesn’t care about anyone’s religion? 300,000 deaths clearly isn’t enough.
If these pastors had any shred of decency, they would stay closed and start making plans to go big next Christmas. That’s the best gift any of these churches could give their members. Instead, they’ll now be allowed to create super-spreader events.
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