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For months, some states have handed down stringent COVID restrictions to houses of worship deemed “nonessential,” leaving those institutions few options save legal recourse to serve their congregations.
Now, the country’s religious communities face an additional challenge. According to a new report from the Napa Legal Institute, 43 states and the District of Columbia are failing to prioritize clergy in their COVID vaccine distribution plans — despite federal guidance dictating that they should be deemed essential workers.
“The First Amendment, public policy, and current administrative guidance clearly require that clergy and faith leaders receive the same protections as other frontline essential workers,” Napa Legal writes in its report on the discrepancy.
The federal framework used to dictate “essential worker” status — the “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers Guidance” put out by U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency — explicitly states that “clergy and other essential support for houses of worship” should be included.
Nearly half of the country’s plans (25) fall into the red category. Only seven states — Alabama, Colorado, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin — fall into the green jurisdiction.
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