New Yorker’s Family Research Foundation (NYFRF) has compiled the following list of resources that contain information for churches as they plan for their eventual re-opening. These resources are provided for informational purposes only, and their presence on this list does not imply that NYFRF endorses their content.

Under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s New York Forward plan, the Governor intends to lift COVID-19-related restrictions on business and other activities through a four-phase, region-by-region process. On May 20, 2020, Gov. Cuomo announced that religious gatherings of up to 10 people would be allowed beginning on May 21, 2020; however, the Governor added that large religious services would not be allowed to resume until a given region of the state has reached Phase Four of the New York Forward plan. Gov. Cuomo encouraged faith communities to consider holding parking lot services or drive-in services. NYFRF’s affiliate organization, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, has joined pastors across the State of New York in calling upon Gov. Cuomo to (a) lift restrictions on worship services in regions that have not been severely impacted by the pandemic; and (b) lift restrictions on worship services as part of Phase Two, not Phase Four, of New York Forward in other regions. 

State Government Actions Affecting Churches

I: New York Executive Orders and Guidance Documents

Executive Order No. 202.1 (March 12, 2020) (placing temporarily restrictions upon businesses and large gatherings)

Executive Order No. 202.3 (March 16, 2020) (temporarily ordering the cancellation or postponement of any large gatherings or events involving 50 or more persons, including worship services)

Executive Order No. 202.4 (March 16, 2020) (temporarily closing all New York schools)

Executive Order No. 202.10 (March 23, 2020) (temporarily cancelling non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size for any reason)

Executive Order No. 202.31 (May 14, 2020) (continuing the temporary ban on non-essential gatherings of individuals to May 28, 2020)

Other Executive Orders Issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Empire State Development Guidance Document (interpreting Executive Order 202.10 to mean that “all non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size for any reasons (e.g. worship services, parties, celebrations, or other social events) are canceled or postponed. Congregate services within houses of worship are prohibited.  Houses of worship may only be used by individuals and only where appropriate social distancing of, at least, six feet between people can be maintained. Further, individuals should not gather in houses of worship, homes, or other locations for religious services until the end of this public health emergency. If possible, religious leaders should consider alternative forms of worship, replacing in-person gatherings with virtual services, such as phone or conference calls, videoconference calls, or online streaming.”)

Executive Order 202.32 (May 21, 2020) permits a gathering of ten or fewer individuals for any religious service or ceremony, provided that social distancing protocols and cleaning and disinfection protocols required by the Department of Health are adhered to, and provided further, that any drive-in or remote religious service may continue in excess of the ten person limit so long as there is no in-person contact between participants.

New York Forward (Gov. Cuomo’s multi-phase plan to re-open the state)

Regional Monitoring Dashboard

More Information on COVID-19

II: Information and Analysis

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Coronavirus Regulations Affect Churches (New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, March 13, 2020)

Government Actions Affect Mass Gatherings (New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, March 18, 2020)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo Signs ‘New York State on PAUSE’ Order (New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, March 21, 2020)

State-Ordered Church Closures: Are They Constitutional? (New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, March 28, 2020)

Cuomo Guidance Places Excessive Burden Upon Religious Expression (New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, April 11, 2020)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo Announces 12-Point Plan to Reopen New York (New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, May 4, 2020)

Small religious gatherings can resume Thursday, with proper precautions (The Buffalo News, May 20, 2020)

Questions to Consider

A webinar for pastors and church leaders on “Strategies for Re-Opening Church,” the first in a 4-part webinar series for pastors and church leaders on Christian leadership in a post-pandemic world, sponsored by the Florida Family Policy Council.

Church, Don’t Let Coronavirus Divide You (Brett McCracken, TheGospelCoalition.org)

24 Questions Your Church Should Answer Before People Return (Ken Braddy, ChurchLeaders.com)

As States Begin to Reopen, Remember Risk Is Part of the American Spirit and Character (Paul Batura, The Daily Citizen)

As States Reopen, Church Leaders Consider Senior Adults’ Needs (Tess Schoonhoven, Baptist Press)

COVID-19 and the Church (Family Research Council)

DOJ Warns Government Against Infringing Upon Religious Freedom (New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms)

Guidance for Churches and Religious Institutions Facing Coronavirus Restrictions On Gathering (First Liberty Institute)

Guidelines for Reopening Your Church (Family Research Council)

Honoring God and Government During a Pandemic (New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms)

The Things You Need to Think About Before You Reopen Your Church (Megan Briggs, ChurchLeaders.com)

What Pastors Should Know About the White House Plan to Open Up America Again (Family Research Council)

When Should Churches Reject Governmental Guidelines on Gathering and Engage in Civil Disobedience? (Jonathan Leeman, 9Marks)

Civil Disobedience (Pastor H. Ed Reed, Christian Bible Church, Mohawk, NY)

Rediscovering Authority (Rev. Kevin Backus, Bible Presbyterian Church, Grand Island, NY)

Parking Lot/Drive-In Church Services

NYCF Seeks Clarification Regarding Drive-In Services During Pandemic (New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, April 6, 2020)

Ministry Wants Drive-Ins Open For More Than Movies (New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, April 17, 2020)

Chemung County Churches Challenge County Executive’s Overreach (New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, April 23, 2020)

NYCF Offers Churches Drive-In Service Guidance (New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, April 28, 2020)

Drive-In Movie Theaters Re-Open Statewide (New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, May 18, 2020)

Governor Encourages Faith Communities to Consider Parking Lot and Drive-In Services (The Buffalo News, May 20, 2020)

Planning Your Re-Opening

Our church is getting ready to meet again. What’s next? (National Center for Life and Liberty, NCLL.org)

Basic Guide for Returning to Your Church Building After COVID-19 (Georgia Baptist Mission Board)

COVID-19 Phase 2: Guidelines and Recommendations for Reopening Places of Worship (First Liberty Institute)

Proposed Phased Approach Opening Guidelines (Metro Life Church, Casselberry, Florida)

What Should Churches Do as They Consider Reopening After the Coronavirus? (Daniel Patterson and Jenn Kintner, ERLC.com)

ReOpenChurch.org (Liberty Counsel)

Sample Phased Approach Re-Opening Plan (Metro Church, Fairfax County Virginia)

Tips for Re-opening Your Church (Baptist State Convention of North Carolina)

12 Things to Consider When Reopening Your Children’s Ministry (Jared Kennedy, ERLC.com)

This Is Why Choirs Might Need to Stay Silent for a While (Stephanie Martin, ChurchLeaders.com)

How to Avoid Bad Press as Your Church Reopens (David W. Fouse, ChurchLeaders.com)

How to Communicate Your Reopening Strategy to the Community (Megan Briggs, ChurchLeaders.com)

Products, Supplies and Cleaning Procedures

Prepare Your Church for Re-Opening: Discounted Hand Sanitizer, Dispensers and Face Masks (Outreach.com)

Cleaning and Disinfection for Community Facilities Guidelines (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Legal Organizations

Alliance Defending Freedom

First Liberty Institute

Liberty Counsel

National Center for Life and Liberty

Christian Law Association

Thomas More Society