San Francisco Chronicle

1 Re­li­gion: Places of wor­ship can re­open with restrictio­ns as long as city hits mark­ers.

- By Sarah Ra­vani, Nora Mis­hanec and Tal Kopan Religion · Society · San Francisco · Massachusetts · London · Nancy Pelosi · Saint Anne · Stanford University · University of California, Berkeley · Berkeley · London Breed · Declaration of Independence of the United States · God · Robert Siegel

Places of wor­ship in San Fran­cisco might be able to hold in­door ser­vices for up to 25 peo­ple, and 50 peo­ple outdoors, start­ing Oct. 1 if coro­n­avirus cases aren’t surg­ing.

That goal was an­nounced Mon­day, two days be­fore the head of Arch­dio­cese of San Fran­cisco wrote an opin­ion piece crit­i­ciz­ing the city for “un­fairly treat­ing” re­li­gious in­sti­tu­tions by not al­low­ing in­door ser­vices — a move that he ar­gued lacked com­pas­sion. He also said the new rules to al­low in­door gath­er­ing will not ac­com­mo­date enough peo­ple.

He has or­ga­nized a march on Sun­day in San Fran­cisco to “Free the Mass.”

San Fran­cisco is cur­rently in the red tier, based on the state’s new color­coded blue­print for al­low­ing cer­tain busi­nesses and ac­tiv­i­ties to re­sume. That tier al­lows in­door ser­vices with mod­i­fi­ca­tions, in­clud­ing a max­i­mum 25% ca­pac­ity or 100 peo­ple. But de­spite that guid­ance from the state, the city had chosen a more re­stric­tive path and barred all in­door re­li­gious gath­er­ings. Out­door gath­er­ings are al­lowed for up to 12 peo­ple.

Re­gard­less of whether San Fran­cisco moves to a less re­stric­tive phase — the orange tier — places of wor­ship can re­open to 25 peo­ple in­doors and 50 peo­ple outdoors start­ing Oct. 1.

“The mayor is sen­si­tive to the needs of the faith com­mu­nity and peo­ple’s de­sires and needs to wor­ship, both per­son­ally and as mayor,”

said Jeff Cre­tan, a spokesman for Mayor Lon­don Breed. “We are work­ing with pub­lic health to do what we can, know­ing we have to be cog­nizant of the risks with every step we take with re­open­ing, whether that is schools or houses of wor­ship.”

On Wed­nes­day, Sal­va­tore Cordileone, the arch­bishop of San Fran­cisco, called San Fran­cisco’s restrictio­ns on church ser­vices “pro­foundly harm­ful and un­equal treat­ment” in a Wash­ing­ton Post opin­ion ar­ti­cle. He said the city’s an­nounce­ment that it would al­low in­door ser­vice for up to 25 peo­ple doesn’t go far enough.

“Our fun­da­men­tal rights do not come from the state. As the au­thors of our Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence put it, they are ‘self­evi­dent,’ that is, they come from God,” Cordileone wrote. “Even this in­jus­tice, though, is not as hurt­ful as the sim­ple lack of com­pas­sion. I some­times won­der whether the in­creas­ingly sec­u­lar elites im­pos­ing these restrictio­ns un­der­stand the pain they are un­nec­es­sar­ily in­flict­ing.”

Cordileone added that “sacra­ments as we Catholics un­der­stand them can­not be livestream­ed.”

In re­sponse to the arch­bishop’s state­ment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Fran­cisco said Fri­day that while she misses at­tend­ing church reg­u­larly, she sup­ports fol­low­ing ex­pert rec­om­men­da­tions on re­open­ings.

“With all due re­spect to my arch­bishop, I think we should fol­low sci­ence on this,” Pelosi said. “We have some ar­eas of agree­ment and some ar­eas of dis­agree­ment. So I don’t know if he was speak­ing as our pas­tor or as a lob­by­ist — ad­vo­cate — but what­ever it is, I’m sure that he must have meant if it is sci­en­tif­i­cally safe, rather than jeop­ar­diz­ing peo­ple’s health if they want to go to church.”

She also said she is some­times asked about faith and sci­ence be­ing con­tra­dic­tory.

“I be­lieve that sci­ence is an an­swer to our prayers,” Pelosi said. “It is a cre­ation of God and one that is an an­swer to our prayers.”

Other Catholic lead­ers echoed Cordileone and said they have proper safety pro­to­cols in place and should be al­lowed to re­open. Ken Del Ponte, the par­ish man­ager at St. Anne of the Sun­set, said city of­fi­cials sim­ply don’t un­der­stand how es­sen­tial re­li­gious ser­vices are.

“We can prob­a­bly hold in­door Masses if we put a Wal­greens sign on the church be­cause peo­ple can go in there,” Del Ponte said. “It’s a lit­tle frus­trat­ing. San Fran­cisco is a very sec­u­lar city and it does seem like ev­ery­thing is es­sen­tial ex­cept re­li­gion. I’m not say­ing (po­lit­i­cal lead­ers are) mean spir­ited or are tar­get­ing us, but I don’t think they get it.”

Cordileone said Catholic churches have de­vel­oped “rig­or­ous pro­to­cols” to pro­tect pub­lic health and ques­tioned why the pub­lic can go to parks, dine outdoors and visit malls at a re­duced ca­pac­ity.

In­fec­tious dis­ease ex­perts say the com­par­i­son be­tween re­tail and in­door ser­vices is flawed be­cause the trans­mis­sion of the virus re­lies on hu­man be­hav­ior.

“It turns out that the be­hav­iors that peo­ple have in stores and the be­hav­iors that peo­ple have in places of wor­ship are very dif­fer­ent,” said Robert Siegel, an in­fec­tious dis­ease spe­cial­ist at Stan­ford Univer­sity. “They shouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily be com­pared. Peo­ple in places of wor­ship tend to be vo­cal­iz­ing more and vo­cal­iz­ing louder by sing­ing. They tend to be in con­tact with each other for longer pe­ri­ods of time.”

Siegel added that the spread of the virus tracks be­hav­ior and not in­ten­tion or be­liefs.

John Swartzberg, an in­fec­tious dis­ease ex­pert at UC Berke­ley, said so­cial dis­tanc­ing and masks can mit­i­gate risks, but sing­ing or speak­ing loudly can in­crease the risk.

“That is the dan­ger of bring­ing peo­ple to­gether in terms of any kind of re­li­gious gath­er­ing right now,” he said.

The city and the arch­dio­cese have clashed dur­ing the pan­demic.

In early July, the city sent the arch­dio­cese a let­ter telling it to stop hold­ing “mul­ti­ple in­door large gath­er­ings at its fa­cil­i­ties,” in vi­o­la­tion of the city’s health or­der pro­hibit­ing such as­sem­blies.

Just days later, SS Peter and Paul’s Church in North Beach hosted a wed­ding, af­ter which at least 10 peo­ple tested pos­i­tive for the coro­n­avirus, in­clud­ing the new­ly­wed cou­ple, two guests said. A city of­fi­cial crashed the wed­ding and or­dered it to stop.

In Au­gust, city of­fi­cials again rep­ri­manded the arch­dio­cese for vi­o­lat­ing coro­n­avirus health or­ders.

That let­ter is the last for­mal cor­re­spon­dence be­tween the arch­dio­cese and the City At­tor­ney’s Of­fice.

Lead­ers of other re­li­gious places of wor­ship said they aren’t as hard­pressed to re­turn to in­per­son ac­tiv­i­ties.

Dan Ain, the se­nior rabbi at Con­gre­ga­tion Beth Sholom in San Fran­cisco, said it’s been chal­leng­ing to trans­fer all ser­vices on­line — espe­cially with the start of Rosh Hashanah on Fri­day. But Ain said his pri­or­ity is to keep the com­mu­nity safe be­cause “preser­va­tion of life” is a key teach­ing in Ju­daism.

“We ap­pre­ci­ate be­ing led by the pub­lic au­thor­ity and the ad­min­is­tra­tion,” Ain said. “I’m a rabbi, I couldn’t tell you much about the sci­ence, so I ap­pre­ci­ate the ex­perts.”

 ?? Liz Hafalia / The Chron­i­cle 2019 ?? Arch­bishop Sal­va­tore Cordileone calls S.F.’S lim­its on church ser­vices “pro­foundly harm­ful and un­equal treat­ment.”
Liz Hafalia / The Chron­i­cle 2019 Arch­bishop Sal­va­tore Cordileone calls S.F.’S lim­its on church ser­vices “pro­foundly harm­ful and un­equal treat­ment.”
 ?? Scott Straz­zante / The Chron­i­cle ?? John Hor­ton (left) and Charles Ship­ley put a can­dle in place be­fore a vir­tual ser­vice on Easter Sun­day at Grace Cathe­dral in San Fran­cisco. Church lead­ers are crit­i­ciz­ing city restrictio­ns on in­per­son ser­vices.
Scott Straz­zante / The Chron­i­cle John Hor­ton (left) and Charles Ship­ley put a can­dle in place be­fore a vir­tual ser­vice on Easter Sun­day at Grace Cathe­dral in San Fran­cisco. Church lead­ers are crit­i­ciz­ing city restrictio­ns on in­per­son ser­vices.

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