LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Many houses of worship in Los Angeles County were holding indoor services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day after public health officials eased pandemic restrictions last weekend.
Last Saturday, the L.A. County Public Health Department announced that indoor religious services would again be permitted, this in response to a ruling from the Supreme Court in early December. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Pasadena church which had challenged Gov. Gavin Newsom’s restrictions on religious gatherings, arguing that they violated the First Amendment.READ MORE: See Who Won During The Golden Globe Awards
The county said places of worship can hold services inside and outside but must practice six feet of physical distancing between households, and all attendees must wear face coverings.
However, the health department issued a statement Thursday afternoon strongly urging people to refrain from attending in-person services.
“No matter what a Superior Court judge says and given what’s happening now, it is simply too risky to gather indoors with other people who do not live with you,” the statement said. “Public Health urges you to continue to more safely worship as you have during the pandemic by attending remotely via streaming service or at outdoor services only.”
The department said that attending an indoor service would “result in transmission of COVID-19 and additional hospitalizations that the healthcare system cannot handle at this time.”
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which overseas Roman Catholic churches in L.A., Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, announced Wednesday that it would allow its churches to hold indoor services and released a list of guidelines. Among those, choirs are not allowed and congregations are “strongly discouraged from singing.”
Bibles and other items cannot be shared and communion will only be offered “in the form of bread, on the hand.”
The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown L.A. held two masses Thursday afternoon with a maximum indoor capacity of 130 people each.READ MORE: 2 Riverside Co. Sheriff's Deputies Recovering After Being Hit By Delivery Van; 2 Women Killed
“It’s nice to be able to be in the building and really feel the Christmas spirit and celebrate it in the cathedral,” Abigail Jimenez, a churchgoer, said.
They will hold another two on Christmas morning. The masses will also be streamed here.
And while they’re allowed to offer in-person services Grace Chapel in Inglewood said it would keep them virtual for now.
“For us, it’s in our best interest to continue meeting online,” Pastor Charles Williams said. “A lot of us are over 50, a number of us are over 60. I’ve got members in their 80s, and I did not want to risk their lives and their well-being.”
Since the coronavirus pandemic began, there has been significant controversy surrounding the issue of whether houses of worship should be allowed to meet indoors. L.A. County has been engaged in multiple legal cases with churches who chose to defy orders not to hold indoor services.
Most California churches, mosques and synagogues statewide were first forced to shutter indoor services in mid-March, when the coronavirus pandemic took hold. They were allowed to reopen in late May, but under strict guidelines mandated by the state. Those included limiting attendance to 25 percent of the building’s capacity, or a maximum of 100 people, and requiring all congregants to wear masks and get temperature screenings.
However, in mid-July, when the coronavirus numbers began to spike, Newsom ordered all houses of worship in counties with high case rates to again halt indoor services.MORE NEWS: Video: Multiple Trees Fall On Homes, Leading To Injuries During Severe Winds
Currently, Southern California is under a mandated stay-at-home order which bans all public and private gatherings except for religious services and protests. The order will run through at least Dec. 28.