(WAFB) - Churches in Louisiana are allowed to host in-person religious gatherings during the pandemic.
However, church officials must comply with a list of government rules released by Governor John Bel Edwards, effective May 1.
Among those rules:
- Religious gatherings must happen in open areas (outdoors). They can happen with or without temporary tents.
- The temporary tent, subject to local or parish rules and ordinances, must meet NFPA 101 Life Safety Code and must be open on all sides (no barriers). The tent must not be enclosed.
- There must be a minimum 7-foot, 6-inch of headroom (ceiling height).
- Crowd managers should be at the service. They should be able to call for an emergency evacuation, enforce social distancing requirements, assign seating to attendees, and further manage any movement of people throughout the service. A crowd manager can be church ushers, staff, or leadership. In the event of a fire or other emergency, crowd managers must call for an evacuation and then call 911.
- A state-approved fire extinguisher must be within 75 feet of the tent area.
- There must be one crowd manager for every 50 people in attendance.
- Crowd managers are required to wear face masks.
- The number of people who can attend the service is subject to social distancing requirements and spacing of seated attendees. Crowd managers must provide strict supervision to ensure social distancing is happening.
- Crowd managers must limit group seating to people who are members of the same household. Seating of persons or congregated people of a household must be assigned in a manner that allows spacing of at least 6-feet from all other individuals seated (This applies to seating available or either side, forward and behind).
- Persons or congregated people of a household must maintain a 6-foot distance from others when entering, moving about, seating, and exiting the service.
- Human contact should be minimized.
- It is encouraged that persons be asked not to attend if they are 65 years or older or have chronic health conditions.
Religious communities across the U.S. continue to question coronavirus restrictions from governments.
Governments are enforcing rules that limit the number of people who can gather in one place at the same time, including churches and religious gatherings.
Church officials argue those rules violate constitutionally-protected religious freedom and free speech rights.
One Central, La. pastor attracted national attention by defying previous restrictions from Gov. Edwards that discouraged gatherings of more than 10 people.
That pastor has since battled with local and state officials to shift public favor to allow religious services to continue.
Just a day ago, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry called for churches and other houses of worship to be allowed to reopen without limits on the number of people attending.
“I believe many faith-based congregations will begin to meet with or without guidance,” Landry said. “We are better served by taking a proactive approach by publishing reopening guidelines that take a phased approach to services restarting. Without guidance on best practices in place, this could be disastrous.”
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