RACINE — The City of Racine has lifted its restriction on indoor capacity for religious worship.
However, the ordinance keeps in place the capacity restriction on mass gatherings for special events at religious institutions. That capacity restriction is identical to the restriction for special events at other private and public venues.
Dottie-Kay Bowersox, the City of Racine public health administrator, on Thursday night released a revised version of the Safer Racine ordinance to maintain compliance with recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings relating to restrictions on occupancy for places of religious worship. The update to the ordinance includes removing the restriction on regular operations of up to 75% indoor capacity (based on occupancy permit & excluding employees), if social distancing of 6 feet could be maintained.
Last Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Tandon v. Newsom. In the Tandon decision, the Court clarified the analysis required for government responses to public health emergencies, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, when involving faith-based entities.
The Court held that governmental regulations may not “treat any comparable secular activity more favorably than religious” activity. The capacity limits for faith-based services, religious entities, and places of worship have been removed in order to assure that the Safer Racine ordinance is consistent with the law as the Supreme Court has determined.
“While I can sincerely appreciate the Supreme Court’s perspective and the need for individuals and families to practice their faith, the transmission of COVID-19 within the City of Racine is increasing,” Bowersox said. “More people are contracting the virus. In order to slow the spread of the virus during this pandemic, it is imperative that individuals continue to social distance, stay home when ill, and wear facial masks. We have modified the ordinance to be compliant with the decision from the Court, however, at the same point, we do recommend that religious institutions consider the health of community and self-impose capacity limits for the time being until more of our residents are vaccinated.”
The Public Health Administrator is given the authority to make such modifications to the City of Racine ordinance known as Safer Racine by the Racine City Council. The updated Safer Racine document can be found at racinecoronavirus.org. Questions about the ordinance can be directed to email@example.com or 262-636-9201.