Church in the dock. Covid-19 warning. SF threatens action against Archdiocese

San Francisco’s City Attorney  takes a secular approach to complying with Covid-19 requirements.  

Religious institutions can be no exceptions in a health crisis.  Everyone must be responsible for keeping the Pandemic under control and protecting the well-being of all.

There is always another day for religious services.

Excerpted from San Francisco Chronicle 7.1.2020

The San Francisco City Attorney’s Office told the Archdiocese of San Francisco this week to stop holding “multiple indoor large gatherings at its facilities,” in violation of the city’s health order prohibiting such assemblies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

After multiple rounds of correspondence between the city and the church over the gatherings, City Attorney Dennis Herrera sent a cease-and-desist letter on Monday, ordering the Archdiocese to discontinue the indoor religious services it has held in recent weeks or risk a temporary restraining order from the city.

SF Churches I 7.1.2020

With COVID-19 cases erupting nationally, officials were concerned about the church’s “alarming failure to follow common-sense safety protocols” meant to limit the spread of the coronavirus, Herrera said in the Monday letter to the archdiocese.

The church responded on Tuesday, saying it would “continue to work cooperatively with the city as it has done for the past three months by complying with the health orders currently in effect” and that “the archbishop has now notified his priests that the order limiting religious services to outdoors with no more than 12 people remains in force.”

Herrera’s letter to the church indicates the city received multiple complaints about Catholic churches opening to the public for indoor services. One complaint suggested St. Francis of Assisi at 610 Vallejo St. posted signs stating mass would resume on June 14.

The city received multiple complaints on June 14 that Saints Peter & Paul Church at 666 Filbert St. “held public mass six times” that day, Herrera’s letter said, with people entering and exiting the church.

The city also received a complaint that the Star of the Sea church at 4420 Geary Blvd. opened for mass on June 14, which Herrera said was confirmed in the church’s bulletin and in a video posted to YouTube “where neither the priest giving the sermon nor the altar boy are wearing face coverings.”

The city, however, recognizes “recognizes the importance of religious services to many for spiritual health especially during these challenging times” Herrera said in the letter, and has encouraged religious groups to hold services over the Internet or outdoors, with proper social distancing and face-covering restrictions.

San Francisco officials are closely monitoring public health data related to the pandemic following a recent spike in cases and hospitalizations. Currently, the city is permitting things like indoor retail with a limited number of customers, as well as most outdoor businesses, where the risk of transmission is lower.

SF Churches III 7.1.2020

After initially planning to accelerate the reopening of certain businesses, including hair salons, museums and outdoor bars, San Francisco officials were forced to pause their plans.