City of Lufkin on How Disaster Declaration Affects Area Churches
The City of Lufkin has received many calls concerning how the call to halt any gatherings of 10 or more people will affect religious gatherings. This statement has been released to help clarify and explain:
The City of Lufkin has received numerous questions regarding the effect on church services in the City, of Mayor Bob Brown’s Declaration of Local State of Disaster Due to Public Health Emergency (Declaration), as well as Governor Greg Abbott’s Executive Order, which includes similar provisions.
Out of respect for the free exercise of religion in the City of Lufkin, and in light of the compelling interest the City has in the protection of its residents, the City offers the following clarification:
First, the Declaration applies to all public or private gatherings of more than 10 people, including churches. Churches may, of course, meet for worship in groups of 10 or less, provided there is ample room for parishioners to remain six feet apart.
Second, this limitation on numbers is not intended to prohibit the free exercise of religion, nor does it have the effect of violating the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The City’s Declaration does not infringe belief or practice of religion. It temporarily limits the number of people in gatherings due to an existing imminent threat to residents of the City.
The Declaration’s regulations amount to a law of general applicability, and the City of Lufkin has sought to further its compelling interest in protecting the lives of its residents by the least restrictive means possible—that is, by limiting the size of gatherings so social distancing can be ensured.
Few governments—federal, state, or local—have been more encouraging and respectful of religion within its borders than the City of Lufkin.
Mayor Brown, and all City of Lufkin government officials, now appeal to the residents of the City, and particularly its religious leaders, to help protect the most vulnerable among us by rigorously complying with the local and state declarations.