By Tom Campisi, publisher of tristatevoice.com
Laurie Fiedler, an attorney in Wayne, is offering churches guidance when it comes to challenging the current attendance limits set forth by the Governor Phil Murphy and the state of New Jersey.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, churches and houses of worship in New Jersey are limited to indoor attendance of 100 people or 25 percent of their capacity (whichever number is lower) and outdoor attendance of 500.
Fielder notes that hundreds of churches in the United States are challenging COVID-19 restrictions that are “broader than necessary.”
“The restrictions on New Jersey religious entities are discriminatory as they are more stringent than educational facilities and gyms,” she said.
“Other New Jersey entities, such as gyms, indoor amusement facilities, and health clubs have made an outcry against restrictions and have been successful in causing a reduction in their restrictions…Yet, the restrictions on religious assemblies, which are less challenging than gyms, remain in effect due to [the Church’s] complacency. The current restrictions are not consistent with the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.”
Fiedler, an active member of Calvary Temple, in Wayne, NJ, is offering a sample letter than can adapted by each congregation (download here) and sent to Governor Murphy. The letter affirms appreciation for Murphy’s efforts at stopping the spread of Cornonavirus and neccesssary church procedures and precautions, but also notes that many congregants “are distressed that they are being prohibited from church attendance based on a faulty numerical calculation of safe seating capacity.”
In composing a letter, Fiedler suggests detailing the current restrictions’ negative effect on congregants having to cancel or limit weddings, baptisms, baby dedications, funerals, etc. Additional suggestions include noting: the low statistics of cases of COVID-19 in your community; a personal understanding of the need for social distancing because you, a loved one, or congregant had COVID-19; and specific procedures implemented by your church. She also recommends including a picture of your sanctuary with the Murphy attendance limit demonstrating the available space.
The letter states, “The current limitations of indoor church attendance of 100 or 25% of room capacity whichever is lower is inconsistent with the what is needed to keep parishioners safe… Churches can have more than the current permitted cut-off in attendance and still comply with all social distancing requirements issued by the CDC.”
Fiedler is inviting all churches to participate in the letter campaign and to consider “asking your church family to pray the Governor will revise his requirements.”
“It is time for His Church to lead an outcry that religious assembly restrictions be modified to correlate with the promotion of social distancing i.e. the number of worshippers who can attend while remaining six feet apart,” she said.
“Be inspired by His Word [in Hebrews 10:25]: “You should not stay away from the church meetings, as some are doing. But you should meet together and encourage each other. Do this even more as you see the Day coming.”
Letters can be sent electronically or mailed to: Governor Phil Murphy, Office of Governor, P.O. Box 001, Trenton, NJ 08625. Please also email a copy to Laurie Fielder.
Contact Laurie W. Fiedler at (973) 633-6510 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: www.hislaw.net.