Calif. county facing backlash for banning singing for online church services

Anglican Church
A church hymnal inside an Anglican Church.

A California county is being criticized for banning church choir members from meeting together to record songs for online worship services as officials carry out the state's stay-at-home order. 

The Mendocino County order stipulates that only four individuals are permitted to record from one place and "no singing or use of wind instruments, harmonicas or other instruments that could spread COVID-19 through projected droplets shall be permitted unless the recording of the event is done at one’s residence."

The order, which went into effect on Good Friday, will continue to be enforced through May 10, Fox News reported.

In addition to churches, Mendocino County's order extends to other public venues such as concert halls, auditoriums, temples, and playhouses.

Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, posted a commentary on his website about such policies that restrict religious worship.

"To be clear, authorities can and should require that churches respect and maintain physical distancing between all the very limited participants in a streamed worship service," Mohler said. "It is an entirely different matter, however, to tell Christians that they cannot sing in praise and honor of God.

"Indeed, these orders came out just days before Resurrection Sunday — orders saying that Christians, on the day where they celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, are prohibited from singing."

As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, state and local governments mandated social distancing guidelines and orders prohibiting large gatherings deemed "non-essential," which have often included church services, though some measures have proven to be more burdensome than others.

As The Christian Post reported earlier this week, Legacy Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico, filed a lawsuit against the state, arguing that the way in which Democrat Gov. Michelle Lynn Lujan Grisham's order was carried out was sinister in that it was issued on Good Friday and limited gatherings to no more than five people. The church said it needed around 30 people to conduct its online streaming efforts.

The ongoing pandemic has accentuated tensions between the government's responsibility to safeguard the public and the preservation of protected freedoms set forth in the U.S. Constitution, particularly regarding religious liberty.

U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr recently voiced support for Temple Baptist Church in Greenville, Mississippi, after police issued $500 tickets to people who refused to leave a drive-in church service in which they followed social distancing guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Last week the city's Democrat Mayor Errick D. Simmons issued an executive order barring such services until the shelter-in-place order is lifted, though the ticket fees were waived. However, the mayor ended the ban after the Justice Department intervened

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