AUSTIN – Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton today issued updated joint guidance regarding the effect of Governor Abbott’s Executive Order GA-16 on religious services conducted by congregations and houses of worship. The updated guidance to houses of worship recommends strategies to effectively slow the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) while serving their respective communities of faith.
“Government and faith communities throughout Texas must work together to care for our neighbors and slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Attorney General Paxton. “This updated guidance provides clear direction for houses of worship to protect the health and safety of their congregations as they continue to hold religious services, exercise religious liberty and serve their faith communities.”
All emergency orders must comply with the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, Article I of the Texas Constitution, and the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which protect the rights of Texans to freely exercise their religion. Consistent with those protections, Executive Order GA-16 defines essential services to include “religious services conducted in churches, congregations, and houses of worship.” Orders given by state or local governments, therefore, may not prohibit people from providing or obtaining those religious services. And importantly, under GA-16, local government may not close houses of worship.