by Guy Page
This week’s US Supreme Court decision striking down New York restrictions on religious gatherings explicitly upholds Vermont Gov. Phil Scott’s executive order on religious gatherings, both Scott and an administration official said today.
The SCOTUS decision recognizes states may tie attendance limits to the size of the house of worship – precisely what is required by emergency order regulations now, Lindsay Kurrle, Secretary of Agency of Commerce and Community Development, told Vermont Daily in an email today. The regulations limit attendance to 50% of the building’s capacity.
Gov. Scott confirmed Kurrle’s explanation at his press conference today.
The decision by SCOTUS validates and supports Vermont’s approach,” Kurrle said. “The majority recognized the compelling state interest in addressing COVID-19 and suggested congregation size could be limited by the size of the space stating “Among other things, the maximum attendance at a religious service could be tied to the size of the church or synagogue”.
“You will find as per the guidance provided on our website https://accd.vermont.gov/news/update-new-work-safe-additions-be-smart-stay-safe-order#religious-facilities-and-places-of-worship under section 7.4 Religious Facilities and Places of Worship, our policy is an occupancy-based limit based on the size of the space, and we have not added a cap on congregation size.”
7.4 Religious Facilities and Places of Worship reads:
“Religious facilities and places of worship may resume operations subject to the mandatory health and safety guidance above, and:
“Outdoor, drive-in, and remote services remain the preferred method of operation.
Operations are limited to 50 percent of fire safety occupancy or 1 person per 100 square feet, whichever ensures physical distancing. Physical distancing between household/family units should be observed.”