Colorado Houses Of Worship Can Now Exceed Pandemic Capacity Limits; Weddings And Funerals Labeled ‘Essential’

Jim Hill/CPR News
Faith United Church of Christ in Windsor, Colo., Aug 8, 2020.

Weddings, funerals and baptisms are now classified as essential operations under a newly amended state public health order.

Colorado health officials published the amendment on Dec.7 and it went into effect later that same day.

Worship services and ceremonies can also now exceed recommended capacity limits if they cannot conduct their activities within those restrictions, but, "they must do their best to follow public health recommendations," according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Attendance at houses of worship in counties under red- or purple-level restrictions was previously capped at 50 people or up to 25 percent of the building's capacity.

Other safety measures, like mask-wearing, sanitation and physical distancing are still required. Outdoor activities are still strongly encouraged over closed gatherings.

A U.S. District Court judge ruled partially in favor of two Colorado churches in October, limiting the state's enforcement of capacity limits at indoor religious gatherings. A month later, the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily ruled that capacity limits for New York houses of worship were not enforceable.

Colorado's updated order also allows institutions like museums, aquariums and zoos to perform educational functions inside, though there are still limits on how many people can be in a single room. The new guidelines allow up to 25 people or 25 percent of capacity.