COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — Under the Safer at Home Order, gatherings of 10 or more people in Colorado are still prohibited. This new order, along with it's Stay-at-Home predecessor have forced churches in our state to find other ways to worship while in-person services are suspended.
Many have adapted to online streaming of sermons, prayers and hymns. Others have invited their congregation to participate in drive-in services from the safety of their cars in the church parking lot.
But this weekend, some places of worship are challenging the restriction on in-person service.
Liberty Counsel describes itself as an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family.
"I am encouraging churches all over the country to participate in ReOpen Church Sunday, May the 3rd," said attorney Matt Staver, Esq. in a video posted to the Liberty Counsel's web page ReOpenChurch.org.
In the video, Staver goes on to encourage pastors and faith leaders to follow coronavirus safety measures to prevent spreading the disease should they choose to offer in-person services.
"Churches can engage in a variety of options including having an in-person service at a reduced attendance, sanitizing the church, also having simultaneous parking lot service and simultaneous online services," Staver said.
A guidance memo uploaded to the web site points to the White House's recent phased reopening strategy. Churches is part of that federal plan which has a target implementation date of May 1. The document goes on to cite case law suggesting that interference by state or local authorities could the First Amendment.
Congressman Ken Buck shared his support of ReOpen Church Sunday during an interview with KOA-AM talk radio host Mandy Connell on April 23.
"We don't get through this without prayer, and that's something I think a lot of our leaders miss that we can have the best medical technology possible but without the blessing of God, we will not get through this mess," Rep. Buck said.
In Southern Colorado, Calvary Fellowship Fountain Valley announced on Facebook they will hold in-person services this Sunday. The post asks members of the congregation to reserve a space because capacity is limited to 90 people after spreading out the seats by six feet. Their message explains that Governor Polis made accommodations for churches back on April 21 to have, "more than one group of 10 people under the same roof if social distancing protocols were adhered to between the groups."
That didn't sound like the same message the governor shared with News 5's Elizabeth Watts on Wednesday when she asked about churches reopening.
"So, churches non-commercial, commercial, it's still gatherings of 10 or greater that are not ... that are too dangerous at this time," Mr. Polis said.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued guidance for places of worship last month in transitioning to electronic platforms during the pandemic. The document acknowledges that faith and spiritual community are critical to well-being during a time of crisis. The department recommends churches with adequate parking space hold drive-in services. A separate public health order offered guidelines for allowing a broadcasting crew of 10 or fewer people in a church.
"The better we can contain this virus, the more that pastors can know that they're not endangering the lives of their congregants and they're honoring the sanctity of life when they're able to invite fill their pews again," the Governor said in his Wednesday interview.
The Liberty Counsel Coronavirus Safety Measures echo some of the same recommendations for in-person gatherings contained in the CDPHE guidance. Those include asking members who are sick or showing signs of illness like cough, runny nose or sneezing to stay home. Likewise, those who are in high-risk groups are also asked to refrain from attending.
Click here for the latest update on the number of cases, the age, gender and location of presumptive positive, indeterminate and confirmed cases from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.