COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) – Colorado churches are allowed to stay open with almost no legal restrictions because of a federal lawsuit, all while many businesses struggle to survive increasing restrictions.
Local governments can legally enforce state mandated capacities at businesses, but churches have nearly free reign. This is because a federal judge sided with a Colorado church in October, when they pushed against restrictions the state tried to impose on them.
An El Paso County Health Department spokesperson explained, their office cannot do much beyond make safety recommendations to churches in hopes they comply, saying in part, “based on the federal court decision granting a preliminary injunction in Denver Bible School et. al, and based on legal interpretation, (church) capacity limits are not enforceable at the present time.”
The senior pastor at New Life Church in Colorado Springs says, this makes sense now, because he feels churches provide unique and necessary emotional support during the pandemic.
“We want to be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem. But,we also recognize that the role of the church in the community is different than a lot of other organizations, because we provide mental and emotional support to people who are really wrestling right now,” said Senior Pastor Brady Boyd,
New Life Church is one example of a church choosing to impose safety measures on themselves. They limit in person services to 20% of their capacity, along with encouraging mask wearing, hand sanitizing, social distancing, and frequent building cleanings.’
Still, businesses are facing near lock down restrictions. When asked if New Life Church would consider stopping in person services, Boyd replied, “If our hospitals come under real severe stress, and if we realize that as a church, we’re contributing to that by staying open, of course, we would close our doors and worship online for a few weeks.”
The state has said, El Paso County’s hospitals are already nearing crisis standards now.
“The church is not standing with our fists raised in defiance of local government,” Boyd added. “We are supportive and cooperative … Like everyone else, we’re deeply concerned about the effects this virus is having on our most vulnerable in our city.”
According to the state’s guidelines, if El Paso County moved to Extreme Risk level purple, churches would still be allowed to have in person services with no capacity limit. They would have to enforce 6 feet of social distance and have services outdoors.
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