This means that they are exempt from the bans on social gatherings.
Some counties and cities in Texas have been giving conflicting and even unconstitutional orders in reaction to the necessary “stop the spread” movement.
In recent weeks, there have been varying and sometimes hypocritical, unconstitutional, and conflicting orders from Texas county judges and Texas city mayors. One of the biggest points of controversy has been county judges and city mayors banning all religious services and threatening arrest of pastors. This certainly seems to violate the Constitution’s First Amendment protections of religion. These orders also seem completely hypocritical.
While there is no question that this virus is serious and steps should be taken to stop the spread of it, that does not mean the most basic constitutional rights can be violated such as banning churches. Religious services ARE essential to this great State of Texas and the United States of America. They are expressly protected by the Texas State and US Constitution.
More reasonable restrictions can be enforced in order to stop the spread. It was outrageous that people were being banned from going to see their pastor even just one on one in a parking lot, yet in these same counties which restricted religious services, you were still able to do a long list of many activities that do not even seem essential like going get beer, or in cases of essential activities, you could do them with limited restriction such as going into a crowded grocery store.
The Executive Order advises Texans to stay at home for the next month to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The new E.O. comes into effect at 12:01 am on Thursday and will be in place until April 30, which aligns with the federal recommendation on social distancing that was announced by President Trump on Monday. The new Order supersedes the one issued on March 19 which prohibited social gatherings greater than 10 people.
The new order encourages Texans to “minimize social gatherings and minimize in-person contact with people who are not in the same household.”
Gov. Abbott refuses to label the policy a “shelter-in-place” or “stay-at-home” order because he believes that can be confusing. He wants to assure Texans that they can continue with essential portions of their activities like grocery shopping provided that they maintain social distancing. It does, however, prohibit eating in restaurants and bars and extends school closures to May 4.
“States that have adopted ‘stay-at-home’ policies or even some that use ‘shelter-in-place’ are very close to ours, which is, if you had to put a label on it, it would be ‘essential services and activities only,'” Abbott said, drawing parallels between Texas and even New York, the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States. “If you’re not engaged in an essential service or activity, then you need to be at home for the purpose of slowing the spread of COVID-19.”
The state has outlined a list of more than a dozen sectors that provide essential services that comply with Abbott’s order, which is largely aligned with federal guidance on the issue. Those include health care, energy, food and critical manufacturing. Texas’ list adds religious services, which are not included in federal guidance.
Source: Texas Tribune
Executive Order GA 14 designates religious services as “essential services” which is a departure from most other jurisdictions.
In accordance with guidance from DSHS Commissioner Dr. Hellerstedt, and to achieve the goals established by the President to reduce the spread of COVD-19, every person in Texas shall, except where necessary to provide or obtain essential services, minimize social gatherings and minimize in-person contact with people who are not in the same household.
“Essential services” shall consist of everything listed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in its Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce, Version 2.0, plus religious services conducted in churches, congregations, and houses of worship. Other essential services may be added to this list with the approval of the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM). TDEM shall maintain an online list of essential services, as specified in this executive order and in any approved additions. Requests for additions should be directed to TDEM at EssentialServices@tdem.texas.gov or by visiting www.tdem.texas.gov/essentialservices.
Governor Abbott signed the Executive Order on March 31.
It does, however, state that it is preferable for religious services to be held online, but if the organization doesn’t have that ability, that CDC recommendations on hygiene, cleanliness, sanitation and social distancing should be adhered to in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
In providing or obtaining essential services, people and businesses should follow the Guidelines from the President and the CDC by practicing good hygiene, environmental cleanliness, and sanitation, implementing social distancing, and working from home if possible. In particular, all services should be provided through remote telework from home unless they are essential services that cannot be provided through remote telework. If religious services cannot be conducted from home or through remote services, they should be conducted consistent with the Guidelines from the President and the CDC by practicing good hygiene, environmental cleanliness, and sanitation, and by implementing social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Source: Office of the Texas Governor