At the request of the Catholic Church, the French high court Conseil d'Etat on November 30, 2020 compelled the French state to not treat churches fundamentally more stringently than non-essential storesconseildetat20201130. The Conseil d'Etat judge ordered the government to effectively harmonize treatment of churches to treatment of non-essential businesses within three days.
However, in this beginning lockdown easing, no other re-authorized activities (such as 'non-essential' businesses) are subject to a limit on the number of people regardless of the size of the premises. The particularity of religious ceremonies is not sufficient to justify the 30-person limit imposed on all establishments of worship, regardless of their size.
It was before the Christmas shopping rush. There was no threat of variants. We were optimistic about vaccinations. Non-essential business were again opening faster than places of worship. Cultural and sports venues analogous to places of worship had been closed since mid 2020 and are still haven't reopened.
The government hastily met with religious leaders and announced a new agreement on December 2 frenchgovpr20201202. The then-new rules for places of worship have not been modified since: every other row empty, two seats vacant between any parishioners not from the same household, no singing, distancing of over one meter and government-approved masks (not home-made cloth masks) worn correctly. These rules have been set in stone without review since December 2. The government action excludes parishioners from nuanced adjustment to protocols in places of worship. Protocols are continually adjusted for example for non-essential businesses according to expertise and public policy.
As of March 20, 2021, we entered a new lockdown in Paris. Non-essential stores are closed. There is no change for the churches, still open according to the December 2 rules of lockdown easing. This has forced churches to make ad-hoc decisions on how to best care for congregants ^2.
Consider the current protocols for schools. Students are tested regularly. An entire class closes if one Covid case is discovered ^3. Churches have no such benefit, an the populations we serve are much more vulnerable than schools. Children are educated in the matter of reverence for Covid-19. The messages relative to Covid from places of worship may vary as much as or more than their respective dogmas.