The Brillion News
MADISON — Governor Tony Evers on Thursday, April 9, reiterated legal options for religious gatherings and services allowed under his Emergency Order #12.
The Wisconsin Institute of Law & Liberty, a public interest law firm, asked the governor to tell local governments banning "drip-up" religious services that they were wrong, and that such services are allowed.
The governor did that shortly before 1 p.m. on Thursday, April 9.
Religious organizations and places of worship had inquired about opportunities to continue offering faith-based services and gatherings while still complying with the governor’s “safer at home” order.
Evers and Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-designee Andrea Palm issued a Safer at Home order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, effective March 25. This order remains in effect until 8 a.m. on Friday, April 24, 2020, or until a superseding order is issued. This order applies to the entire state.
It says that all Wisconsinites must stay at home as much as possible and nonessential businesses and operations must cease, with limited exceptions for minimum basic operations and working from home.
All public and private gatherings of any number of people that are not part of a single household or living unit are prohibited, except for the limited exceptions contained in the order.
Under the governor’s order, churches and religious entities are considered essential.
Any gathering must include fewer than 10 people at a time if it occurs in a room or confined space.
Thus, churches and religious entities wishing to conduct services while still complying with the governor’s order may, for example, conduct services via:
• Parking lots with congregants staying in cars, avoiding person-to-person contact;
• Streaming online; and
• Having small gatherings (fewer than 10 people in each room) with multiple services. Churches and religious entities are encouraged to review and comply with all DHS guidelines, including guidelines for community and faith based organizations available here. The governor’s Safer at Home order is enforceable by any local law enforcement official, including county sheriffs; however, the governor’s office has not asked law enforcement to supervise or take enforcement steps against religious gatherings.
The state continues to ask local law enforcement to assist local communities and congregations understand the governor’s Safer at Home order and help folks take precautions to keep themselves, neighbors, and communities safe.
Under this scenario, an order issued by Calumet County Health earlier this week, banning drive-up worship in parking lots, exceeds the governor's Emergency Order #12.
Trinity Ev. Lutheran Church in Brillion had planned on holding an Easter "drive-up, parking lot" worship service, then canceled those plans.
However, since the governor made it clear that "parking lot" worship is legal as long as people stay in their vehicles, Trinity decided to go ahead with the 9 a.m. drive-in worship on Easter Sunday.
That service is allowed under the clarification issued April 9 by the governor's office.
The plan calls for the worship to be broadcast over a low-power FM radio transmitter to cars in the parking lot. The radio signal would likely not extend beyond 500 feet from the transmitter.
The radio frequency to be used at Trinity is 89.5 MHz.