Executive Order GA 14 was passed by Abbott earlier in the week and defines essential services to include “religious services conducted in churches, congregations, and houses of worship.”
“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,” said Attorney General Paxton. “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.”
According to the joint guidance, orders given by state or local governments prohibiting people from providing or obtaining certain services must ensure that the orders don't violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Article I of the Texas Constitution, and the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The order instructs houses of worship to conduct activities from home or through remote audio or video services whenever possible.
"Houses of worship often gather as large groups of people in one building during a religious service or activity. But during this public health crisis, in accordance with guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Texas Department of State Health Services, providers of essential services must follow certain mitigation strategies to slow the spread of the virus," the joint guidance stated.
If a house of worship cannot conduct its activities remotely, then they must follow the rules set forth by the order.
- Instruct sick employees, volunteers, and guests to stay home
- Practice social distancing by maintaining the appropriate distance between people
- Maintain good hygiene by washing your hands frequently, using hand sanitizer, using your elbow to cover coughs, and not touching your face
- Clean and disinfect work areas frequently
Houses of worship are also instructed to follow additional guidance from the White House and the CDC whenever possible.
Read the full joint letter here.
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