At a press conference at the Texas Capitol on Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott unveiled a new executive order encouraging Texans to “limit personal interactions” through April 30 in order to slow the spread of the Chinese coronavirus.
While the order does not mandate a statewide “stay-at-home” policy, as many counties and cities across the state have already done, it does offer guidance on what constitutes an “essential” sector.
Among those exceptions? Churches and places of worship.
According to Abbott, churches may continue to hold services—virtually or in person—as long as they adhere to social distancing guidelines, which includes people keeping a 6-foot distance between each other.
This new guidance from Abbott will supersede more strict regulations from some localities that have explicitly banned religious services.
First Liberty, a public interest law firm dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom, has threatened lawsuits against cities that ban “in-person religious gatherings,” forcing the City of McKinney to walk back its onerous restriction.
Additionally, the order keeps Texas schools closed until at least May 4.