Hawley, Norris among Assembly members asking Cuomo to reopen churches ‘as soon as possible’

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 May 2020 at 9:08 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: The front door of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Albion is pictured on Friday evening. Holy Family Parish is not celebrating Mass with the congregation in the building.

Two local Assemblymen are among a group in the State Assembly asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to allow churches and religious institutions to reopen “as soon as possible in order to help aid the spiritual health of New Yorkers.”

Steve Hawley, R-Batavia, and Mike Norris, R-Lockport, are among 16 Assembly members to sign a letter to the governor on Friday, asking that churches be allowed to reopen.

“The COVID-19 outbreak has not just caused a physical health crisis, it has also caused a mental and spiritual crisis for many as well,” the Assembly members wrote. “New Yorkers have been ordered in isolation with almost no warning and while virtual services and practicing at home have been viable options for the time being, it is not enough for many who are starting to feel the serious effects of NY on PAUSE.”

Many of the churches have closed their buildings to the public since March 15.

The Assembly members in their letter say the shuttered church buildings have also reduced revenue for the religious institutions, threatening the ability of many churches to be able to reopen.

“Many of these facilities rely heavily on donations and offerings and though some have continued to give virtually, the age-old phrase of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ has begun to take effect.”

Besides Hawley (139th district) and Norris (144th district), the letter was signed by Assembly Minority Leader William Barclay, Brian Manktelow (130th district), Jake Ashby (107th district), Kevin Byrne (94th district), Marjorie Byrnes (133rd district), Joe DeStefano (3rd district), David DiPietro (147th district), Michael Fitzpatrick (8th district), Christopher Friend (124th district), Mark Johns (135th district), Brian Kolb (131st district), Melissa “Missy” Miller (20th district), Ed Ra (19th district) and Robert Smullen (118th district).

“We feel that religious institutions are essential to New York and, thus, should be re-opened to help them during this difficult time,” the Assembly members wrote in the letter.

The Assembly members said the governor hasn’t made it clear where churches and religious institutions fall under the four phases for reopening the state.

“We seriously hope you consider having them open sooner rather than later, to help both the struggling institutions and the mental and spiritual health of New Yorkers,” the letter states. “In doing so, we also encourage these facilities to follow proper social distancing protocols such as wearing masks, refraining from physical contact, staying 6 feet away from one another and staying home if someone feels sick.”

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