Governor Bill Lee and other Tennessee leaders have called for churches to eliminate gatherings in favor of virtual church services.
Published January 22, 2021
In an Executive order issued by Governor Bill Lee on Tuesday, places of worship are strongly encouraged to “continue to utilize virtual or online services or gatherings and strongly encouraged to follow the Guidance for Gathering Together in Houses of Worship issued by the Governor’s Office…”
In addition, the executive order states that “any large public celebration component of weddings and funerals be postponed or attended only by close family members.”
Despite purporting to be of strong Christian faith, Lee had pointed words directed at churches and church-goers who continue to attend in-person worship.
“Quite frankly, they’re risking people’s lives,” Lee said, “There are ways to worship and there are ways to serve without congregating people. And I’m urging and challenging churches to do just that.”
The executive order does not outright ban religious services but the exhaustive list of guidelines for churches to follow in order to gather, while following protocols, have caused many churches to cancel in-person services and move worship to strictly online.
Among others, some of the protocols include suspending after-church gatherings and refreshments and banning church choirs.
Churches are being asked to “modify distribution protocols” of communion and “avoid passing a plate or cup.”
Church-goers are instructed to social distance by sitting/standing at least six feet apart, wearing masks and not to “hug or shake hands.”
Older church members are instructed to “not gather in person until a later time.”
The restrictions are likely to disrupt upcoming religious holidays, such as Passover and Easter Sunday.
Lee’s orders also do not take into account the many Tennesseans who either do not have internet access or are advanced in years and do not have the capability to utilize technology.
In a Friday morning news conference, Nashville Mayor John Cooper stated, “I urge all houses of worship to incorporate robust public health protocols for the sake of our community. We must all continue to lift each other up and find strength in our faith, but we must do it safely.”
“I will also encourage our faith community to engage in a weekend of prayer, while observing strict social distancing in order to lift all Nashville residents up during these difficult times,” Cooper said.
Metro Nashville’s chief medical director, Dr. Michael Caldwell, is soon expected to issue a public health advisory to all houses of worship in Davidson County, urging them not to physically meet.
Montgomery County Mayor Jim Durrett also supports the continuation of social distancing and following health protocols.
“I know each church has a different means of being able to serve their congregation but I would say if they could do online only then I would highly recommend that,” Durrett said, “Anything to minimize public gatherings would be best. They can worship individually or in groups of three or four.”
Despite new studies that show that lockdowns have had little to no effect on the spread of the virus, it seems that many of our state and local officials are relying solely on pop-medicine to make decisions that shape our lives.
Apparently, they are also not referencing a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision where the Court sided with Churches in Challenges to bans on indoor services.
However, not all Tennessee leaders go with the grain.
District 3 Hamilton County Commissioner, Greg Martin, states that, “With regard to religious freedom, I think we’ve seen it under attack in the last number of years in ways that are unprecedented in our country’s history.”
Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles states that Governor Lee has lost his way and that we should be “encouraging one another to go to church instead of discouraging it.”
Ogles proudly displays photos of his family having “Breakfast after Church” on his Facebook page.
Ogles states, “Human beings are designed to worship God corporately, and together. It is so engrained in our DNA that it is a fundamental right of every person, as recognized by our First Amendment.”