San Antonio Governor overrides rules on religious gatherings amid coronavirus crisis.
Churches, synagogues and mosques in San Antonio and Bexar County can technically resume in-person religious services under Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s latest emergency order handed down Tuesday.
Gov. Greg Abbott, with Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Judge Nelson Wolff, speaks at the San Antonio Operations Center on March 16, 2020. Abbott handed down an executive order Tuesday allowing churches, synagogues and mosques to convene if they can’t conduct services remotely — overriding previous orders by Nirenberg and Wolff.
But local officials said they believe local religious leaders will still try to hold services remotely and not endanger their congregants.
“I really believe our pastors and religious leaders are not going to put their parishioners in jeopardy,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said. “I really believe that they will be very careful.”
Abbott’s new order classifies religious services at places of worship as essential — overruling previous orders handed down by Wolff and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg.
Those orders prohibited places of worship from holding services in-person but encouraged religious leaders to instead conduct services remotely through video, teleconferencing and other means.
Abbott said religious services should either be conducted remotely or in-person using social distancing guidelines. He added that “drive-up services,” where congregants would remain in their cars, which some churches plan to use this Easter, would “satisfy the criteria that we’re talking about.”
Nirenberg and Wolff said they are confident that heads of churches, synagogues and mosques will keep offering services remotely and not try to pack their places of worship with congregants. Nirenberg noted that Abbott’s order calls for in-person gatherings with social distancing only if it’s impossible to hold remote services.
“I would expect what has been implemented over the last week or so will continue,” Nirenberg said during Tuesday’s daily media briefing.
Wolff concurred. But he noted that Abbott’s latest order conflicts with previous directions he’s given to limit social gatherings.
“One second, the governor says there should be more than 10 in a room,” Wolff said earlier Tuesday. “The next, he says this is OK to do. It seems to be contradictory to me.”