Mass. to Reopen Churches Amid DOJ Pressure - Word&Way

Mass. to Reopen Churches Amid DOJ Pressure

(AP) — Massachusetts to reopen houses of worship as the country battles the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday (May 21). Baker said his decision to shutter houses of worship during the state of emergency “was the right thing to do, but I hated doing it.” They have been allowed to restart services this week as long as they practice social distancing.

“The Department of Justice has made very clear to a number of states that peoples’ ability to access church and practice their faith is a constitutional question that they are pushing people at the state level pretty hard on,” Baker told WGBH News. “I couldn’t ignore that.”

Joey Johnson, AKA Captain Corona, directs traffic at The South Congregational Church Food Pantry on May 20 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The food pantry served about 500 families with pickups Wednesday and Thursday mornings and delivered boxes to others. Additionally, the pantry operates a kitchen that serves up to 100 people per meal to go. (Ben Garver/The Berkshire Eagle via AP)

Baker declined to say whether he would support efforts by some in the state Legislature to mail ballots to every registered voter for the fall elections.

“I really haven’t spent any time thinking about it,” Baker said. “People think this is something that needs to happen soon? I mean the elections are a long way away.”

Baker also said he hopes coronavirus cheek swab or nasal swab tests that can be self-administered will be available this summer, which could help the state increase testing. Baker said he and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito have been tested once after they had “conversations at a distance” with Massachusetts Public Safety Secretary Thomas Turco who later tested positive for the virus. Baker said he and Polito both tested negative.