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HomeIllinois NewsIllinois lawmaker offers COVID guidelines to resume in-person church services

Illinois lawmaker offers COVID guidelines to resume in-person church services




EFFINGHAM – State Rep. Blaine Wilhour (R-Beecher City) says he is hearing from many of his constituents that are ready to return to weekly church services and he is working with Governor JB Pritzker to develop a list of guidelines for churches to resume in person services.

“I had a forty-five-minute conversation with the Governor on Saturday and on three different occasions he expressed a desire to get religious services back on,” said Rep. Wilhour. “The freedom to assemble and the freedom to practice our faith is a right guaranteed by the Constitution. Reopening our churches needs to be a priority.”

The recommendations being considered include five categories for churches to address: preparing the church building, safe activities for employees and volunteers, the pre-service preparations, the guidelines during service, and the activities after the service or between services.

“First, I want to emphasize that these are guidelines – not requirements,” Wilhour said. “For instance, the guidelines I am proposing strongly suggest that people over 65 continue to stay home. These are suggested guidelines but ultimately people have to make choices and they must take responsibility for those choices. This should not be viewed as government coming in and allowing people to exercise their freedom to worship. These are intended to be guidelines to help churches reopen in a manner that ensures the safety of the congregants and the community at large. I have every confidence that our churches and our church leaders are perfectly capable of holding services while at the same time ensuring the most vulnerable people in their church community are protected.”

The suggested temporary guidelines for places of worship include a common-sense checklist of cleaning the church sanctuary pews and chairs, doorknobs, light switches, microphones, and anything that would change hands or be touched. Rep. Wilhour also suggests temporarily removing Bibles and hymnals and items from the back side of pews and posting signs about safe distancing, masks and not shaking hands.

Other suggestions for the governor to consider include pre-service registration online, email, by phone or social media to know how many people can safely attend with the distancing of six feet and having items such as hand sanitizer available at the entry for people who may forget theirs.

“I never thought we should have closed churches in the first place, and I have always believed that churches should be considered essential,” Wilhour said. “If liquor stores are essential then houses of worship should be essential as well. These guidelines are an effort to expedite the re-opening process for our churches. It is an effort to deal with the realities of the situation. The courts will ultimately decide what governments can and cannot do as it relates to shutting down church services in the future. This effort is about trying to present a plan that gets us to a point where we can open up churches sooner than later.”

Wilhour's specific proposed guidelines are here: 

Download Wilhour – Guidelines for Safe Reopening of Church Buildings


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