Pastor Shell Osbon and his wife Missy, talk to the crowd during the Drive-in church service at the Life Church Smyrna Assembly of God Sunday, April 5, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC
And state officials need no reminding that outbreaks in some of Georgia’s worst hotspots, Albany and Cartersville, were linked to religious gatherings. Even drive-in services, his administration warned aren’t infallible because some congregants aren’t staying in their vehicle.
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Georgia has plenty of company as officials try to navigate the tricky issue of whether to allow religious services at a time when most gatherings are forbidden.
Florida had a patchwork of restrictions on houses of worship before Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a stay at home order that exempted religious services. More than a dozen governors have authorized similar exemptions that allow Easter worship services to proceed.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Kemp seemed torn over whether he would institute tougher limits on houses of worship during a stretch that includes Easter, the start of Passover and, in two weeks, the beginning of Ramadan.
“If anyone needs to be in church right now, praying for wisdom and guidance, it’s me. But I’m having to do that in other places,” Kemp said.
Pressed on whether he would order the state to shut down congregations that don't comply, a point Kemp raised on a recent private call with more than 800 clergy members, the governor said he was still struggling with that possibility.
“I hope I don’t get in a position that I have to do that. I know it’s something I don’t want to do, and I hope it’s not something that I need to do.”