Indiana houses of worship will be allowed to hold services without an attendance cap as early as this Friday — serving as a “control group” of sorts while the economy gradually reopens, the state’s governor said.
Under a plan announced late last week, Gov. Eric Holcomb announced that “for all 92 counties,” in-person church services with more than 10 congregants could begin as early as May 8, according to The Indianapolis Star.
A spokesperson for the governor later confirmed that there was no attendance cap for such services, the outlet reported.
But some religious institutions found the relaxed guidelines confusing — because most of the state is in Stage 2 of Holcomb’s plan, which limits gatherings to 25 people, according to the report.
Three counties won’t even get to that stage until May 11. Marion County, which includes Indianapolis, is under a stay-at-home order until May 15, the outlet reported.
Holcomb explained his decision Monday, saying he thought worship services were “a good place to start” and officials will keep a close eye on what happens over the next 14 to 21 days as in-person services resume.
“If we can manage this, it gives us a lot of confidence in some other arenas as well,” Holcomb said, according to the Star. “What we’re going to do is learn from these steps that we’re taking.”
“We just thought a good place to start or have a control group, would be places of worship,” he added. “But I did say we needed those church leaders to be responsible for their congregations. We can prove we can do this, and I think we’ll see just that.”
A visitor walks in an empty Indianapolis mall.AP
Churches, like businesses, that aren’t ready to open their doors should wait, according to Holcomb.
Many of the state’s churches are doing just that, according to the report.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis, which includes over 120 parishes, is still hashing out a plan, a spokesperson told the Star.
“While care of souls is always the pivotal focus, we must also act in a manner that is both safe and responsible,” Archbishop Charles C. Thompson said in a Friday letter. “We do not want to be reckless about endangering lives, especially the elderly and vulnerable, nor do we want to have to start all over in the fight against the virus.”
The Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis, which oversees about 50 churches, is also planning to wait.
“We remain committed to doing everything we can to slow the spread of the pandemic,” the diocese said in a letter on its website. “For that reason, we will not be reopening our church buildings for in-person worship this month.”
The mayor’s general counsel, Joe Heerens, emphasized that churches that do reopen should be mindful of social distancing and proper cleaning measures, according to the Star.
“The one thing that has changed is really the lifting of the number of people who could attend a religious service,” he said.
Reception or visitation events held at religious establishments must remain limited to 25 people, he added.