The Pew Research Center recently conducted an analysis of orders and guidelines from each U.S. state about social distancing programs, and found that only ten states did not give exception of the rule to religious gatherings, according to Friendly Atheist.
Among the states that have exempted religious gatherings from the lockdown rules, twenty one states limilited religious meetings to be groups of ten people or fewer, and often required participants to practice proper social distancing at the place of worship.
Meanwhile, a third of the country has placed no restrictions on religious gatherings, as they are categorized as an essential activity exempt from the executive orders.
Pew researcher Virginia Villa speculated that some states that imposed restrictions on religious groups but did not prohibit them made the decision out of fear of legal challenge. Religious advocacy organizations have brought lawsuits against state governments in Kansas and New Mexico.
“Perhaps with such litigation in mind, most other states have carved out exemptions for religious gatherings in their stay-at-home orders or other directives in an attempt to balance religious freedom concerns with safe social distancing practices,” Villa wrote.
After the Pew Research Center collected its data on Apr. 24, Montana announced its plan to allow places of worship to reopen as long as social distancing guidelines are followed.