Just before the weekend, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a heavy-handed letter to Mayor Breed criticizing the City's constraints on places of worship. Furthermore, the DOJ threatened to take "further action" if those restrictions weren't loosened up accordingly.
If there's anything the past few months have shown us... it's that prematurely lifting or intentionally side-stepping pandemic safety measures — like, say, attending an illegal church service — will simply result in more COVID-19 cases. (As it stands right now, San Francisco is also doing far better than any other large metropolitan in the United States at mitigating active COVID-19 cases, by and large because of our tight coronavirus policies.) But for some: reopening places of worship seems to outweigh protecting the human lives those very institutions are meant to serve, as evident by the DOJ's wording in a letter to Mayor Breed.
Holidays are an essential part of #faith for millions of Americans. If you gather in person, #WearAMask, wash your hands, stay at least 6 feet apart, & bring your own worship materials. https://t.co/MmHlQuEqWc pic.twitter.com/5MdNT0Gmxe— CDC (@CDCgov) September 27, 2020
As described by SFGATE, in a letter (signed by Assistant Attorney General Eric S. Dreiband and U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California David Anderson), the DOJ called SF's restrictions on religious institutions "draconian" and that they were being unfairly treated given how similar indoor activities have been greenlit in San Francisco. The letter went on to add "[San Francisco is] wholly at odds with this Nation’s traditional understanding of religious liberty, and may violate the First Amendment to the Constitution."
“These rules plainly discriminate against people of faith and their ability to gather and practice their faith at churches, synagogues, mosques, and other houses of worship,” the letter continues to read, per the Chronicle.
That aforementioned criticism comes after the City continues to take a more strict approach over allowing congregations inside places of worship. Despite now being allowed to admit groups — that are limited to 25 percent of their original capacity, mind you — inside of them, SF still only permits "one congregant at a time" to worship inside of churches and the like.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who's a vocal and practicing Catholic, also decided to jump into the debate — having earlier opted to advocate for the idea of "[following] science."
“With all due respect to my archbishop, I think we should follow [the] science on this,” she said in response to an archbishop’s letter earlier in September.
Both the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) say that indoor activities that encourage singing, shouting, and close contact with others — all common elements in places of worship — can put people in high-risk situations for contracting COVID-19.
Image: Getty Images via DanHenson1