Home Christian News Biden Indicates He Is For In-Person Worship, If Done ‘Safely’

Biden Indicates He Is For In-Person Worship, If Done ‘Safely’

Supporters of worship restrictions note that numerous outbreaks of COVID-19 have occurred at religious gatherings, including a recent “superspreader” event that was traced back to convocation events at a North Carolina church: As of last week, 213 cases of COVID-19 and 12 deaths were linked to services there.

But others argue restrictions are a violation of religious freedom, with advocates filing numerous lawsuits in several states. The situation is poised to escalate: Two Orthodox Jewish synagogues and the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn are asking the Supreme Court to suspend Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s order that limits religious gatherings to 10 people in high-risk areas of New York City.

Delaware’s restrictions on worship were also subject to a federal lawsuit that was dropped earlier this month after Gov. John Carney reached an agreement with faith leaders: He pledged not to impose a 10-person attendance limit on houses of worship and would list churches alongside other “essential” institutions in the future.

Biden, for his part, has modeled a different approach to pandemic safety than Trump, who contracted the virus himself and whose White House has repeatedly been the site of coronavirus outbreaks. By contrast, the president-elect has been spotted wearing a mask while entering church and called for a nationwide mask mandate during his campaign.

Granted, even after his inauguration, Biden likely can’t enforce such a mandate; his transition website clarifies his team will work with governors and mayors to push mask mandates and ask Americans “to do what they do best: step up in a time of crisis.” But his administration could adjust Centers for Disease Control guidelines, which were hamstrung by the Trump administration: CDC guidance for reopening houses of worship was reportedly put on pause in May after White House officials disagreed with the agency’s restrictions on religious institutions, such as calling for limits on choir sizes.

Tightening up recommendations for religious groups would likely be welcomed by public health experts, many of whom have cautioned against in-person worship. In April, Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told Religion News Service and other reporters that he is in “support of limiting those kinds of congregation (meetings) from happening because the ramifications extend well beyond those individuals.”

Some of Biden’s rumored candidates for secretary of health and human services have similarly voiced support for curtailing in-person worship — at least on a volunteer basis. North Carolina Secretary of Health and Human Services Mandy Cohen told a local news station in October that the “best” way to worship during the pandemic is virtually, and that other forms should be limited.

“If you can’t meet virtually — if you’re going to meet in person — meet outside, meet in smaller groups, and wear masks all the time,” she said.

Another one of Biden’s potential HHS picks, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, recently unveiled an order declaring that religious groups that operate indoors should limit gatherings to 25 percent capacity or 75 people, whichever was lower. The governor also encouraged all places of worship to “err on the side of remote or audiovisual services during the current public health emergency.”

This article originally appeared on ReligionNews.com.