Thursday, March 19, 2020

Coronavirus gathering bans raise religious freedom questions

A growing number of religious institutions are suspending in-person services this week after inviting worshippers in last Sunday despite public health worries over the coronavirus pandemic. PhotoⒸDerek Catalano.

By ELANA SCHOR, Associated Press

NEW YORK -- On the first Sunday after the coronavirus began upending American life, some religious institutions – including two churches whose pastors are close to President Donald Trump – held in-person services amid public health worries over the pandemic. That picture already looks different this week.

Pastor Robert Jeffress, a stalwart evangelical ally of Trump, held services at his First Baptist megachurch this past Sunday in accordance with Dallas-area limits on gatherings of more than 500 people but said in an interview that this week, he would hold online-only worship. The Florida church where Paula White, Trump’s personal pastor and a White House adviser on faith issues, invited congregants to in-person services this past Sunday will also shift to online-only status this week, according to a spokeswoman.

Jeffress, who had called for “a fearless church,” said on Tuesday that Christians should take “common-sense approaches” to protect their health.  Read more >>