MARSHALL COUNTY — On Friday, the County Commissioners passed a new ordinance that mandates that a face mask is required for any person or individual entering any public space or enclosed place of business. There are also consequences for people and for businesses for not complying to this new ordinance. 

A person that does not comply with the ordinance could be asked to leave the business or could also face criminal prosecution for trespass and/or disorderly conduct, Class B misdemeanors. Businesses that don’t comply with the ordinance could face fines and/or having their business shut down.

What does this mean for places of worship? 

Commissioner Kevin Overmyer explained that while the county remains in an Orange status under the new county metrics, he thinks the county will be moving to Red in the near future. One of the differences between Orange and Red is that with Orange, social gatherings of any kind, inside or outside is limited to 50 people. For Red, that number is reduced to 25 people.

“As we well know there’s separation of church and state, but I would plead to the clergy of this county that they be mindful of what we are trying to do at this point in time. Try to limit the risk of contamination and just be mindful of their parishioners, that they aren’t putting them at risk either,” Overmyer said.

Overmyer gave his thoughts about Thanksgiving activities hosted by churches. “There’s some churches that are having a big Thanksgiving dinner this Sunday and things and having carry-ins. To me that’s a red flag. When we have people carrying in, you have people touching the same spoon over and over and over, and sharing the food. I think it just sets up for more of a disaster that we really don’t need here at this point in time.”

Commissioner Mike Burroughs stated that Julius C. Trimble, Indiana Bishop of the United Methodist Church along with the district superintendent has issued a request of the United Methodist Churches in Indiana to not meet in person and have virtual services for “an unforeseeable future.”

“I know for the local churches we have decided to abide by that request from the Bishop and the district superintendent to not meet in person. We’ve determined that for at least the next three Sundays then we’ll reevaluate after that, but I can envision that being the rest of the year,” said Burroughs.

Per Executive Order 20-48 signed by Governor Eric J. Holcomb, places of worship and faith communities are “strongly encouraged to continue or resume livestreaming services or otherwise providing virtual or drive in services to safely serve their communities.”

Live or in-person religious services, including weeding ceremonies and funeral services “are not subject to limits on social gatherings as set forth in this Executive Order.” 

However, the order does state that social distancing and other sanitation measures apply. This means that individuals or households must be spaced at least six feet apart from any other individual or household.

The difference is that in the Governor’s Executive Orders, face coverings are “strongly encouraged.” Commissioner Overmyer said that in this ordinance, there is no option.

“I believe under this order, if you’re going into a church, you have to have your face mask on. That’s not an option,” Overmyer said.

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