CNA Staff, May 15, 2020 / 13:01 pm America/Denver (CNA).
Specific guidelines for reopening churches during the coronavirus pandemic were excluded from a set of documents released by the CDC this week, possibly due to religious freedom concerns, according to a report by the Associated Press.
Six one-page documents released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday cover guidelines for helping employers, schools, bars and restaurants, daycares, camps, and mass transportation systems make decisions about reopening.
Churches were not included in the May 14 guidance. However, the AP reported that a similar document for churches was created, but not released. It reportedly included recommendations of limiting the number of people present at gatherings and spacing them out during services. Citing anonymous sources from the Trump administration and the CDC, the AP said the guidance regarding worship services was removed following White House concerns over government giving instructions to faith groups.
Some states have seen lawsuits from churches arguing that religious congregations have been singled out for stricter regulations than other entities, amounting to an unfair targeting of religion.
Religious freedom advocates have stressed that while the government can limit religious gatherings for public health reasons during a pandemic, it must treat religion the same as similar non-religious activities.