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Maryland County Backtracks Order Banning Communion, Discouraging Singing At Religious Services

A Maryland county has reversed on an executive order that would have banned communion at religious services had it gone into effect.

County Executive Calvin Bell of Howard County, Maryland signed an executive order May 26, scheduled to go into effect Friday, that banned communion at religious services and related how religious institutions, barber shops and other retail establishments could begin reopening from the coronavirus pandemic shutdowns.

The county reversed these restrictions following a Wednesday report from the Catholic News Agency.

“Now that Governor Hogan announced a modified reopening of restaurants yesterday, Howard County is revisiting all food consumption restrictions,” Howard County Spokesperson Scott Peterson said in a statement provided to the Daily Caller News Foundation Thursday. “As we move closer to a full Phase 1 Reopening, we will be lifting food consumption restrictions for faith institutions.”

Howard County’s initial order prohibited food being served during religious ceremonies, limited religious gatherings to no more than 10 people and put restrictions on singing during services.

“There shall be no consumption of food or beverage of any kind before, during, or after religious services, including food or beverage that would typically be consumed as part of a religious service,” the May 26 order stated.

“If singing takes place, only the choir or religious leaders may sing,” the order said. “Any person singing without a mask or facial covering must maintain a 12-foot distance from other persons, including religious leaders, other singers, or the congregation.”

Peterson said Thursday that the county is working through another round of policy changes and will “continue to work with our faith leaders to provide guidelines that will allow residents to worship safely and all religious leaders to resume practices safely.”

The Archdiocese of Baltimore has also issued guidance on both Phase 1 and Phase 2 reopening, the spokesman noted, adding that the county will consider these guidelines.

“We are very pleased to hear that Howard County will be lifting their restrictions on faith institutions regarding food consumption,” said Archdiocese of Baltimore spokeswoman Mary Ellen Russell in a statement provided to the DCNF. “We are grateful to County Executive Ball and his team for working closely with our community and many others to ensure the health and safety of all while respecting essential elements of our faith traditions.”

“These are unchartered waters for all in leadership, and it is essential that we continue to work together for the common good,” Russell said.

News of Maryland County’s reversal comes after Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said in a May 26 interview that churches should stop distributing communion.

“I think for the time being, you just gotta forestall that,” Fauci said.

“You always have to take into account what the dynamic of the outbreak is in your particular region,” he said.  “Having said that, when you’re dealing with a nationwide outbreak like we have right now, you’ve really got to take precautions.”

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