The Supreme Court voted 5-4 on Feb. 5 that California can no longer have a ban on indoor church services after a ban was implemented for COVID-19 safety precautions.
Since July, California has been prohibiting indoor church services, along with other indoor operations, for areas that are on the state’s monitoring list for three consecutive days. The Supreme Court’s decision will allow indoor services to start again in the name of protecting religious rights.
The state is still allowed to limit the attendance to 25% of a church’s normal capacity. Bans on singing and chanting are also still allowed for public health safety.
“It’s a good decision,” United Methodist Church Rev. Rick Uhls said. “But one we won’t be following.”
Uhls said the church transitioned to online-only services before the state’s ban. He said he plans to only offer services online until the majority of people are vaccinated, as he believes it’s his responsibility to keep his congregation safe physically, spiritually and mentally. Uhls said the church will also need approval from their bishop before moving indoors.
Congregation Beth David, a synagogue in San Luis Obispo, said they will discuss reopening indoor services during a board meeting at the end of the month. According to the synagogue’s office administrator Robyn Friedman O’Leary, the decision to reopen will be made by the board with the safety of their congregants, staff and clergy in mind.
Despite the pandemic halting many things, Ulhs said he found that church attendance has grown since offering an online format, as it has become accessible for worshippers who are homebound or even out-of-state. When United Methodist Church does decide to hold in-person services again, Ulhs said they will offer a hybrid format to continue reaching a greater amount of people.