By Tom Campisi, publisher of tristatevoice.com
On June 9, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced that religious services in New Jersey could resume, but with some strict restrictions due to COVID-19.
For millions of Garden State residents, it appears that church as they knew it or experienced it before the pandemic, is still a long, long way from returning.
Murphy raised the state-wide limit on indoor gatherings from 10 to 50, but houses or worship must operate at 25 percent capacity (whichever number is lower). Additionally, masks must be worn by attendees, who must stay six feet apart and adhere to other social-distancing guidelines within the sanctuary.
“This order will allow for greater indoor religious services,” Murphy said. “We have not only heard from our partners in our faith communities, but we have worked closely with many of them and we believe this represents a responsible plan that ensures that religious services will be appropriately distanced and as safe as possible.”
The governor also noted that churches and other religious institutions should not feel pressure to open. In New Jersey and New York City, several church leaders have warned against re-opening churches too soon, while others have fought vigorously for their First Amendment right.
“I fully appreciate that there are faith leaders who do not yet feel comfortable reopening their sanctuaries at this time,” Murphy said. “There is no requirement that they do so. No one should reopen unless and until they feel fully confident in their ability to do so.”