A Texas Judge has sent out an announcement that any church or business that wishes to be open to the public must post a detailed action plan outside their business stating how they are complying with their local COVID-19 ordinances, with threats of fines and jail time for non-compliance.
The Judge for Titus County, Brian Lee, sent out a message on his Facebook wall outlining some of the requirements and restrictions for churches planning on having drive-in services.
There are certainly a few things worth discussing. We reached out to the Judge and spoke to him at length about his post. When we questioned him about the need to “register your event with the city or county” he insisted that its sole purpose was to ensure that multiple churches wouldn’t be gathering in the same location, such as a baseball field or certain parks, and this was a way to inform those calling in that a particular area may already be “booked.”
When we inquired what this “written plan” was about he pointed to the “Local State of Disaster Declaration‘ which went into effect on April 2nd.
The declaration states that all business and house of worship must have a written plan posted on their door or window. This plan outlines how they will be maintaining 6 feet distance, how often they will be cleaning and sanitizing high touch surface areas, which staff members will be assigned to the task, who will be monitoring the number of people coming into the building, how they will be enforcing the plan, and other measures related to regulating the use of the space.
Here is a sample we were given:
This plan must be visible on the outside of the Church and available for review by any law enforcement officers upon demand.
When we asked what would happen if a church chose not to post this plan describing the use of their space, or could not produce it, or it wasn’t sufficiently detailed, and instead ignored the declaration and just had their regular service in the sanctuary without posting this detailed plan to their building while being safe about it, he pointed us to the penalties in the declaration:
$1000 and up to 6 months in jail. We inquired if churches wished to have a drive-through service where everyone stayed in their vehicles and keep a safe distance, but did not have a detailed written plan in place, would they likewise be liable for the monetary fines and incarceration, and he confirmed they would be liable.