Sen. John Kennedy Writes Letter Asking Edwards to Label Churches Essential Businesses

Senator John Kennedy sent a letter to Governor John Bel Edwards this afternoon asking him to label all churches and houses of worship as “essential businesses.” Doing so would lift capacity limits on gatherings inside church buildings.

“I am asking that you extend to all houses of worship the same rules you have extended to ‘essential businesses’ and peaceful protesters,” Kennedy writes. “Currently, your Phase 2 order limits places of worship to 50% capacity, even when congregations take incredible lengths to remain socially-distanced and encourage mask-wearing when they gather … I trust pastors, priests, and other religious leaders know best how to protect their flocks, and are doing so. I do not believe that government intervention is currently necessary or appropriate.”

Concerns over large gatherings inside so-called “megachurches” arose in Louisiana earlier this year when the Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge, led by pastor Tony Spell, hosted more than 1,800 people at a single service. The church then hosted around 1,220 churchgoers for a Palm Sunday service, violating the pastor’s house arrest order.

Across the country, churches have proven to be suer-spreaders of the Covid-19 pandemic. Just days after many churches reopened following President Donald Trump’s order to state governors, an outbreak of 258 cases was traced to a single Pentecostal church in Oregon. In West Virginia, six separate health departments reported outbreaks linked to churches, and similar church-related outbreaks have been reported in Texas.

Currently, the Louisiana Department of Health reports there have been 735 new cases reported since August 16, 2020, with the total number of cases in the state now at 138,485. Nearly all (85 percent) of those cases were due to community spread, with 28 percent of the new cases occurring in people age 29 and under.

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