Christians who live in Knoxville, Tenn., are now “allowed” to go back to church as of May 1, but the city and county don’t want them to sing, take communion or use Bibles.
As part of its “Community Strategy for Phased Reopening,” Knox County and the City of Knoxville in eastern Tennessee had attempted to impose a lengthy list of restrictions on congregations under the guise of protecting against the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19), but these restrictions have since been overturned at the state level.
Only “core worship,” as defined by Knoxville officials, was to be allowed as part of the reopening, which forbade all “non-essential” worship activities such as groups, classes, youth services, baptism, communion and Bible-reading.
“The physical taking of communion/sacrament should not be performed due to the serial breaking of physical distancing across a congregation,” the original guidance stated before having to be revised to state that such restrictions are now recommended as opposed to mandated.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee issued his own guidance for the reopening of churches throughout the state, which he said overrides the attempted Knoxville guidance. As a result, Knoxville churches now have the option to not follow them if they so choose.
Executive Order 30, as signed by Gov. Lee, states that local governments cannot issue their own rules about places of worship because Gov. Lee himself was planning to issue his own statewide guidelines.
While meeting in actual church buildings is no longer banned anywhere in Tennessee, Gov. Lee is still encouraging all of them to meet online for the time being, though they are free to make their own decision on the matter.
Meanwhile, Knoxville is forging on with its phased re-opening, which in the city and county document is clearly defined as not returning “to pre-pandemic normal.” Knoxville is requiring that each of its many phases last for a minimum of 28 days, which means it will be months, if ever, before the city and county ever sees anything remotely resembling freedom.
“A minimum of 28 days will be spent in each phase regardless of whether the benchmarks are met at an earlier timepoint,” the document explains.
“The phased reopening is not a return to pre-pandemic normal, and the phased plan presents a pathway for reopening that relies on the Five Core Actions we must all consistently take to reduce the spread of COVID-19. They include physical distancing, wearing cloth face coverings, handwashing, cleaning surfaces, and staying home if you are sick or instructed to isolate/quarantine.”
Gov. Lee’s guidance also recommends that church congregants wear face coverings, stay six feet apart, and instruct all worshippers 65 years and older to stay home and watch services online.
He also wants churches to only allow 50 percent of their normal congregations to return, which means the other half would have to watch services online at home or inside their cars out in church parking lots.
As one Tennessee Star commenter pointed out, the Tennessee state constitution clearly states that all men have “a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience,” and that “no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience,” meaning people can attend services and get as close to other people as they want, without face masks, government recommendations be damned.
More of the latest news about the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) is available at Pandemic.news.
Sources for this article include: