For Immediate Release
Contact: Roy Speckhardt, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-550-9775
Contact: Sam Gerard, email@example.com
(Washington, DC, April 10, 2020) – As Easter Sunday approaches, the coronavirus continues to impact hundreds of thousands of Americans, in addition to their families, friends, and acquaintances. Accordingly, the American Humanist Association (AHA) is asking state and local governments to prevent religious congregations from meeting during the ongoing pandemic, especially this weekend as the number of cases are spiking. The AHA is also calling on congregants not to gather in cases where government fails to act.
AHA Executive Director Roy Speckhardt remarked:
“During this perilous time, the vast majority of churches, mosques, temples, as well as all humanist groups, have already done the right thing and halted face-to-face meetings in order to protect their congregations and memberships. However, some church leaders in Louisiana, Texas, Florida, California, and elsewhere are ignoring the safety of their congregants and the public by continuing religious services, even in violation of the law. This isn’t exercising religious freedom and it’s not in good faith; it’s as immoral as it is dangerous.”
States that have closed essential business but have special exceptions for religious services include Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee, West Virginia, New Hampshire, Delaware, Michigan and Mississippi. Additionally, Alabama and South Carolina do not explicitly name religious facilities as a nonessential business. Just this week, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly signed an executive order banning gatherings of ten or more people, including at religious institutions. However, on Wednesday state legislators sought to exempt them.
Speckhardt continued, “It’s time for governments to revisit their tendencies to make exceptions for religious services. We’re all making sacrifices to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and those we don’t even know from COVID-19. Clergy must especially take proper precautions since their actions could protect or endanger so many.”
Humanists aren’t alone in calling to prioritize precautions during this public health emergency. The Mormon church, the president of Christianity Today, and the president of the National Association of Evangelicals have come out in support of suspending religious gatherings during the pandemic.
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The American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other nontheistic Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming worldview of humanism, which—without beliefs in gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.