State updates worship service guidance

Mandatory capacity limits lifted

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California public health officials updated the state’s guidance for places of worship and cultural ceremonies Monday, removing capacity limits for both indoor and outdoor gatherings. 

Since unveiling the tiered Covid-19 reopening system late last August, the state has faced pushback from religious groups and advocates over limits on indoor capacity at places of worship. 

The state revised its guidelines on places of worship in February after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state could not prevent indoor worship services, which it had done by prohibiting indoor worship gatherings for counties in the purple tier. 

At that time, the high court allowed the state to limit indoor attendance to, at minimum, 25 percent of a building’s capacity.

However, a ruling from the court on Friday spurred the state to allow full capacity worship services in all four tiers, provided that participants follow distancing and masking requirements.

The updated guidance also strongly discourages full capacity for worship services, suggesting caps of 25 percent indoor capacity in the purple and red tiers and 50 percent in the orange and yellow tiers.

Paul Jonna, an attorney with the conservative nonprofit law firm the Thomas More Society, lauded the court decisions that moved the state to loosen its guidelines. 

“This is a huge win that God has provided for all people of faith,” Jonna said in a statement. 

The full updated guidance for places of worship, cultural ceremonies, weddings and funerals can be found at https://covid19.ca.gov/industry-guidance.