Arizona lawmaker encourages churches to open for services safely
May 6, 2020, 3:00 PM | Updated: May 7, 2020, 2:54 pm
PHOENIX – A state lawmaker from southwestern Arizona is encouraging the churches to reopen for services Sunday while taking appropriate precautions to mitigate the threat of COVID-19.
Rep. Tim Dunn of Yuma cited a legal opinion issued last week by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich.
“Churches are constitutionally covered as essential services and are protected from being closed, which was confirmed in a formal opinion from the Attorney General’s Office last Thursday,” Dunn said in a press release Wednesday.
Brnovich concluded that church attendance is an essential activity under Gov. Doug Ducey’s stay-at-home order, which went into effect March 31 and has been extended through at least May 15.
Attendance at a place of worship is clearly an “essential activity” under Executive Order 2020-18. The Executive Order expressly provides that essential activities include “[e]ngaging in constitutionally protected activities such as speech and religion.”
— Mark Brnovich (@GeneralBrnovich) April 30, 2020
Most of the state’s houses of worship have voluntarily closed to curb the spread of COVID-19, with some instead holding online services.
According to Brnovich’s opinion, churches don’t have to maintain 6 feet of spacing between congregants but should proceed “in a manner that provides appropriate physical distancing to the extent feasible.”
Dunn said his home church became one of the state’s first to reopen for services last weekend.
“I encourage other houses of worship across the state to take the needed precautions based on their congregation size and situation to comfortably open their doors as soon as they are ready,” he said.
“Here at Champion Church, my fellow board members and I chose to require masks of everyone in attendance, along with several other hygienic measures that we are confident will make our community safer.”
The state is moving toward allowing certain businesses to reopen, although places where large groups gather such as movie theaters, gyms and bars aren’t among them.
Starting Friday, retail stores can reopen if they follow guidelines designed to curb the spread of coronavirus. Barber shops and hair salons taking the proper precautions can also resume service that day.
Then on Monday, restaurants, which have been limited to takeout and delivery, can resume dine-in service on a limited basis.
The state health department reported 31 coronavirus deaths Wednesday morning, increasing the total for the outbreak to 426. Arizona’s reported positive test count increased by 402 to 9,707.