Austin, Texas -- Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton have sent out a set of updated rules on Tuesday that urge the state’s churches to conduct services remotely, but expressly forbid local officials from ordering a house of worship to close to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“Government and faith communities throughout Texas must work together to care for our neighbors and slow the spread of COVID-19,” Paxton said.
“This updated guidance provides clear direction for houses of worship to protect the health and safety of their congregations as they continue to hold religious services, exercise religious liberty and serve their faith communities.”
“The guidelines make only recommendations to houses of worship,” the guidance document released Tuesday says.
Under the revised set of guidelines, places of worship that cannot conduct services remotely should follow guidance from federal officials, instructing employees, volunteers, and guests who are ill to stay home; practicing social distancing; cleaning and disinfecting work areas; encouraging members 65 and older to stay home or providing special senior services; equipping ushers and greeters with gloves and masks; ensuring members and guests sanitize their hands and put on masks before entering; ensuring those attending services sit in family groups and scheduling additional services if needed to facilitate social distancing.
They also say that congregants, staff and visitors are advised to wash hands frequently, use hand sanitizer, cover coughs and sneezes with their elbows, and avoid touching their faces.
Congregations are also urged to not "pass the plate" and come up with a new method of collecting contributions.