In stark contrast to state and local officials elsewhere in America who are essentially banning church services and gatherings in the name of “stopping the spread,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott has issued an executive order declaring religious services “essential.”
Abbott issued the order relating to statewide continuity of essential services and activities during the coronavirus pandemic late last month.
While the order mandated that all Texans must minimize social gatherings and in-person contact with people who are not members of their household, it clarified that “religious services conducted in churches, congregations, and houses of worship” maintain the right to continue uninterrupted as essential services.
The order also stated that “‘Essential services’ shall consist of everything listed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in its Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce, Version 2.0,” and added that “other essential services may be added to this list with the approval of the Texas Division of Emergency Management.”
In a video announcement, Gov. Abbott encouraged those involved in essential services to practice good hygiene, environmental cleanliness, sanitation, social distancing, and to work from home when possible.
Abbott’s order came as other states saw pastors arrested in Louisiana and Florida for holding Sunday services with and without social distancing measures in place.
As we reported earlier this month, Florida pastor Rodney Howard-Browne was charged with unlawful assembly and violation of public health rules after disobeying Hillsborough County’s social distancing orders. Howard-Browne turned himself into a sheriff’s office on Monday.
In Louisiana, Pastor Tony Spell was issued misdemeanor summons on six counts of violating the state governor’s executive order banning gatherings of more than ten people.
Texas also set itself apart from other states when Gov. Abbott declared that his state would not be following in the footsteps of California and New York in releasing convicted criminals from jails and prisons in order to protect them from the virus.
“We want to prevent the spread of #COVID19 among prison staff & inmates,” Abbott said in a tweet announcing the order. “But, releasing dangerous criminals in the streets is not the solution.”
Today I issued an Executive Order preventing the@release of dangerous criminals from prisons & jails.
We want to prevent the spread of #COVID19 among prison staff & inmates.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) March 30, 2020
Folks, we need to be taking note of the states whose leaders are refusing to let mass hysteria cloud their judgment. Clearly, Gov. Abbott is holding the Constitutional rights of his constituents—as well as their safety—in high regard as he handles the coronavirus crisis.
If you feel led to, consider writing to Gov. Abbott to thank him for defending the right of Texans to worship the Lord as they see fit.
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