TENNESSEE BAPTIST MISSION BOARD
This is from the TBMB. Important information with most asked questions and answers... word for word
Governor Lee’s Executive Order to Stay At Home Impact on Churches
On Thursday, April 2, 2020, Governor Bill Lee issued Executive Order 23 which amended his previous Executive Order from:
EO22: “all persons in Tennessee are urged to stay at home, except for when engaging in Essential Activity or Essential Services as defined in this Order,”
EO23: “all persons in Tennessee are required to stay at home except for when engaging in Essential Activity or Essential Services as defined in this Order,”.
Otherwise, the rationale, purpose, and definitions of Essential Activity and Essential Services remained the same. Churches will be particularly interested in the following found in EO 22:
“8. Essential Activity. For purposes of this Order, Essential Activity means: . . .
f. Visiting a place of worship or attending a wedding or funeral; provided, that the Health Guidelines are followed to the greatest extent practical. However, it is strongly encouraged that the public celebration component of weddings and funerals be postponed or attended only by close family members; . . .
9. Essential Travel. For purposes of this Order, Essential Travel means:
a. Travel related to Essential Activity or otherwise permitted by this Order;
b. Travel related to performing Essential Services; . . .
“Attachment A to Executive Order No. 22
For purposes of Executive Order No. 22, Essential Services include: . . .
8. Organizations that Provide Charitable and Social Services. This includes, but is not limited to: businesses and religious and secular nonprofit organizations, including food banks, when providing food, shelter, social services, and other necessities of lie for economically disadvantaged or individuals otherwise in need, individuals who need assistance as a result of this emergency, or persons with disabilities;
9. Religious and Ceremonial Functions. This includes, but is not limited to : religious facilities, entities, groups, personnel, services, rites, and gatherings, including weddings and funerals, provided that the Health Guidelines set forth in Executive Order No. 22 are followed to the greatest extent practicable; . . .”
*Health Guidelines are defined to be those advised by the President and the CDC to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
1. Can our church still legally meet in person?
Under the strictest interpretation of the Order, and unless prohibited by a stronger local ordinance or order, a church is not prohibited from meeting, provided it can ensure that attendees will maintain proper social distancing and other Health Guidelines to the “greatest extent practicable.”
2. What about a Drive-In Church?
Again, it could be held unless prohibited by local authority, provided that the church can ensure that attendees will maintain proper social distancing and other Health Guidelines “to the greatest extent practicable,” including: not rolling down windows or parking at least six feet from other cars, and remaining in the car for the full-time. The church should not open its doors for any reason, including making bathrooms available.
3. Are there legal ramifications if we do decide to meet?
This is not an extensively explored section of law. Churches always have a duty to protect attendees based on the standards of care generally expected in a community. The Governor, by issuing these Executive Orders has raised the standard of care expectation. So, if an individual attending a service during this time of the stay-at-home order is infected, there is a good possibility that the individual, or potentially the surviving family, will claim that the Church failed to exercise the expected standard of care.
4. How will our community react if we decide to meet? Will it draw them to the church or push them away?
Only your church can answer that question. While some will support your right to meet, others will condemn the Church for raising the risk of spreading the virus in your community. This could become a long-held grudge by some that will last long past the COVID-19 pandemic.
5. Can we continue to provide the ministries we have begun for those who most affected by the pandemic?
Yes, this is specifically permitted as an Essential Service. Churches should go to great lengths to follow Health Guidelines even to the extreme.
6. Is this an overreach of authority by the Governor and a violation of our First Amendment rights?
Since the Order specifically allows for religious celebrations and services, it would be hard to argue that the First Amendment right to worship has been violated. The government has a responsibility to protect the health and welfare of the population and does this through building codes, sexual harassment laws, and many other regulations that apply to churches. Requiring certain practices during worship that are intended to further protect the health of the participants would also be hard to argue against. If churches had been singled out to close and if the state could not provide a compelling interest for the required Health Guidelines, then there might be an argument against the Order.
Heavenly Father, continue to speak encouraging words to us in the Spirit, guide us for your names sake, In Jesus name, Amen.
Please remember our church prayer requests and all those listed in our church bulletin.
Pray for one another. Pray for our Nation and ALL people.
Pray for our military, their families and the churches missionaries all around the world.
Pray for our Police Officers, Fire Fighters, and First Responders.
Pray for all those in the medical field, hospitals and doctors offices as they provide patient well care and also to protect themselves.
Finally Pray for the lost, those seeking after The Lord today.
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed by thy name
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power,
and the glory, for ever. Amen
"Wherefore edify(encourage) one another..." 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Cookson Creek, the little church with a BIG heart... in Christ, Pastor Brian
Have a great day!