US houses of worship emerge from lockdown

For the first time in two months, there was clapping, singing and fellowship inside church buildings across the nation as members of the congregation returned to the sanctuary for Sunday morning services. There also were masks, hand sanitizer and social distancing.

On a weekend when President Donald Trump declared houses of worship essential and asked governors to allow people to gather again, some congregants around the country headed for their places of worship with numerous precautions in place.

Tensions remain

Those services in the U.S. followed a frantic two days in which Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced he scrapped his 10-person limit on group gatherings and allowed churches to open at 25% occupancy if certain safety guidelines are met, while the battle over in-person services continued in California.

A split 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel upheld California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s ban on in-person services. He vowed to provide plans today (May 25) for how religious institutions can reopen. Many in California had already announced they would violate the state order and hold in-person services next Sunday, on Pentecost.

On May 8, a federal court halted Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s temporary ban on mass gatherings from applying to in-person religious services, clearing the way for Sunday church services, with guidelines.

Tension over when and how to gather in houses of worship has varied depending on the state, as different areas set their own pace for easing pandemic stay-at-home orders.

Editor’s Note — This is an edited version of the original article from the Associated Press article published May 24. To read the full story, click here. (AP)