A county in northern California has outlawed singing and wind instruments during church livestreams, unless it’s in a home with only the household’s residents.
Tony Suarez, vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, believes the mandate from Mendocino County reveals religious liberty in the U.S. is in jeopardy amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The restrictions are found on the eighth page of a 13-page document outlining what is permissible for “venues, such as concert halls, auditoriums, churches, temples, and playhouses, to enable a recorded and/or live-streamed event to be shared virtually with the public.”
Suarez told Faithwire the actions taken by the county “are in direct violation of our constitutional right to freedom of religion.”
“The majority of churches in the United States have complied with the federal guidelines given, to the extent of embracing streaming services and drive-through services,” he said. “Sadly, there are members of the county board who have an agenda to silence Christian worship.”
What are the limitations?
The county-wide mandate states “only four individuals may be present for the live event,” and any additional participants must do so remotely.
For those four people gathered together, they are required to maintain social distancing measures, keeping at least six feet of space between one another. They are also required to frequently wash their hands and use hand sanitizer. Any individual not in front of the camera is to wear a face mask when possible.
As for musical restrictions, officials with Mendocino County has barred singing and the use of wind instruments and harmonicas as well as any “other instruments that could spread COVID-19 through projected droplets.”
Singing and instrument playing can only be done “at one’s residence, and involving only the members of one’s household or living unit.”
Suarez argued the restrictions are a clear signed of government overreach.
“These individuals have overstepped and must be held accountable for their actions,” he said. “This decision must be overturned immediately and an apology issued to the churches inside of their boundaries.”
How long will they be in place?
The restrictive measures in Mendocino County, intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus, are in place until at least May 10. Those who violate the mandate could be subject to “a misdemeanor punishable by fine, imprisonment, or both,” according to the document on policy.
“Every Christian, regardless of whether they live in Mendocino County or not, should take note of what’s taking place,” Suarez said. “The church cannot be silent about these direct violations and intrusions on our freedom to worship.”