Nevada governor asks religious leaders to suspend in-person services during Passover and Easter

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak giving his inauguration speech on January 7, 2019 - image - Brian Bahouth.

Passover began at sundown on Wednesday. This Friday is Good Friday, and Sunday is Easter. During his regular COVID-19 YouTube update earlier today, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak asked faith leaders across the state to suspend religious gatherings.

“After a lot of thoughtful discussion and guidance from the medical advisory team, my legal team, and faith leaders from across the state, I have decided to place new limitations on participation in in-person worship services. This wasn’t easy. In these trying times, I have clung to my faith to guide me, as I know many of you have as well,” Governor Siolak said on YouTube.

Hear Governor Sisolak’s remarks regarding religious services during the COVID-19 outbreak.

In recent days, the Bethany Slavic Pentecostal Church in Sacramento has been in the news for being at the center of a COVID-19 outbreak that has reportedly affected more than 70 people. Governor Sisolak said he is poignantly aware that the upcoming few days hold great religious significance for many in Nevada. He asked the faithful’s forbearance during these extraordinary times.

“I know that if we allow these services to continue as usual, we will see a spike in cases in Nevada just as we’ve seen in other states. Clusters will appear where people congregate. You might have heard about a religious congregation in Sacramento that health experts believe was the epicenter of a COVID-19 outbreak.

“The church building that the congregation belonged to [in Sacramento] had actually closed their doors on March 18. But small religious groups gathering in people’s homes led to an outbreak of at least 70 people. This outbreak example is in addition to the many examples across the country where religious gatherings or places of worship have led to COVID-19 outbreaks among their congregations.”

On March 24, Governor Sisolak issued an order limiting gatherings of 10 or more. He said he has been in contact with faith leaders and that all of them supported his decision and would ask their congregants to stay home.

“That’s why this new directive makes it clear that places of worship are prohibited from holding in-person worship services with 10 or more people, including drive-in and pop-up services for the duration of the declaration of this emergency.”

Governor Sisolak asked religious leaders to be creative in serving their flocks and emphasized that he too relies on in-person worship.

“This was not an easy ask of Nevadans. As someone who’s attended Catholic services my entire life, I fully appreciate the power of in-person services. Hearing a sermon, speaking with a pastor, Rabbi, Imam, or other religious leader, being surrounded by a community of spiritual followers.

“Religious services are designed to pull people together, to congregate, to commune, to pray. They’re held in sanctuaries, safe spaces. They help us heal. I know how difficult this will be. I want to thank all the faith leaders throughout Nevada I was able to talk to today and in the past week. Your support and guidance helped me make this challenging decision, and I know you’ll all keep the faith alive as strong as we navigate these times.”