CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Last week the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association issued a resolution calling for Governor Roy Cooper to amend the Stay at Home to allow for churches to hold worship services inside, provided they meet the same social distancing guidelines as businesses.
Since submitting the resolution, the association has had various conversations with the governor’s staff.
Tuesday, Governor Cooper’s staff replied and provided clarity regarding outdoor worship services, indoor worship services, weddings and funerals:
Outdoor Worship Services
There is no limit on the number of people that can attend outdoor worship or wedding services. Attendees should follow recommendations to promote social distancing and reduce transmission highlighted in the Phase One order.
Therefore, an outdoor worship service, similar to a demonstration, may be held where families (from the same household) in attendance maintain at least six feet of social distancing from other families or individuals.
The event must be held in an unenclosed space (i.e. not an outdoor facility with walls). Outdoor worship services are also allowed without these restrictions where participants remain in their cars.
Indoor Worship Services
Indoor worship services and weddings are allowed for gatherings of ten people or fewer in the same confined space.
However, nothing prevents an indoor worship service from being shifted to multiple services over a period of time, or held in different rooms, to meet the requirements of the Phase One order.
In situations where it is not possible to conduct worship services outdoors or through other accommodations -- such as through, for example, a series of indoor services of ten or fewer attendees, or through online services — the ten-person attendance limit on indoor worship services does not apply.
For example, there may be situations in which particular religious beliefs dictate that some or all of a religious service must be held indoors and that more than ten persons must be in attendance.
While indoors, participants should continue to adhere to the recommendations to promote social distancing and reduce transmission.
To promote human dignity and limit suffering, up to 50 people may attend a funeral held indoors. People meeting at a funeral should observe the recommendations to promote social distancing and reduce transmission set forth in the Phase One order.
“I thank Governor Cooper for responding to the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association Executive Committee and for providing this clarification for all of the citizens we serve”, said Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page. “While we want everyone to be healthy and safe, part of that health for many is spiritual and those needs must be met too.”
Officials hope this additional guidance on behalf of the governor will resolve the concerns that have been raised by citizens and religious leaders across the state.