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  • Writer's pictureDennis McCaslin

Oklahoma Attorney General addresses Norman church closing issues

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter today called for Norman Mayor Breea Clark to amend her ‘Healthier at Home’ plan to include places of worship in Phase One.

The mayor’s current goal for reopening places of worship is in Phase One B, set for May 15. Both state and federal law limit the mayor’s authority to restrict the free exercise of religion and for peaceable assembly.

Attorney General Hunter said the mayor’s current plan to prevent places of worship from reopening runs afoul of these protections.

“I want to remind Mayor Clark that there are important limits on local authority to restrict activity protected by state and federal law, especially any attempt to impose a mandatory block of religious gatherings or a closure of houses of worship,” Attorney General Hunter said.

“With updated state guidelines, religious services can go on as scheduled this weekend unless they are postponed or rescheduled by the religious institution itself. Leadership at these places should adhere to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, use good judgment and common sense when making the determination on reopening. Those planning to attend services should do the same. But the city cannot discriminate against religious groups by shuttering churches while allowing other establishments—such as restaurants, gyms, retail stores, hair salons and massage and tattoo parlors—that pose the same or greater risk to open.

“If individuals feel ill or they have a credible belief that they may have been in contact with a person who has contracted COVID-19, they should stay home. If individuals need more tips or advice on how to practice proper social distancing or how they can protect themselves, listen to medical experts and utilize the resources from the CDC.”

To access the CDC checklist for community and faith leaders, click here:

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