State Rep. Blaine Wilhour spoke with Governor JB Pritzker over the weekend about what the parameters would be to safely reopen religious services around the state. The recommendations include five categories to be addressed: preparing the church building, safe activities for employees and volunteers, the pre-service preparations, the guidelines during service, and the activities after the service or between services.
““The freedom to assemble and the freedom to practice our faith is a right guaranteed by the Constitution. Reopening our churches needs to be a priority,” said Rep. Wilhour.
““First, I want to emphasis that these are guidelines – not requirements,” Wilhour added. “For instance, the guidelines I am proposing strongly suggest that people over 65 continue to stay home. These are suggested guidelines but ultimately people have to make choices and they must take responsibility for those choices. This should not be viewed as government coming in and allowing people to exercise their freedom to worship. These are intended to be guidelines to help churches reopen in a manner that ensures the safety of the congregants and the community at large. I have every confidence that our churches and our church leaders are perfectly capable of holding services while at the same time ensuring the most vulnerable people in their church community are protected.”
Rep. Wilhour had a forty-five minute conversation with the Governor on Saturday and on three different occasions he expressed a desire to get religious services back on.
The suggested temporary guidelines for places of worship include a common-sense checklist of cleaning the church sanctuary pews and chairs, doorknobs, light switches, microphones and anything that would change hands or be touched. Rep. Wilhour also suggests temporarily removing Bibles and hymnals and items from the back side of pews and posting signs about safe distancing, masks and not shaking hands.
Other suggestions for the governor to consider include pre-service registration online, email, by phone or social media to know how many people can safely attend with the distancing of six feet and having hand sanitizer and masks available at the entry for people who may forget theirs. With temperature checks at the door, anyone at 100 degrees or higher may not stay.
Those who are sick or have been sick would be encouraged to experience the sermons on the local radio station or online until they are well again.
“I appreciate the governor’s willingness to review my suggestions and consider a safe reopening of places of worship in our state,” added Rep. Wilhour.