NATIONAL

Mississippi Churches Face Difficult Decisions At Christmas

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Congregants of Highland Colony Baptist Church are encouraged to spritz their hands with sanitizer before picking up a communion packet, while having a variety of seating options in the Worship Center of Highland Colony Baptist Church, Nov. 29, 2020, in Ridgeland, Miss. The church practices covid protocols by allowing families to sit spaced out from others, separating older and more vulnerable members in the worship hall and providing sanitizer and masks at the entrance. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

(AP) — Mississippi is the center of the Bible Belt in the U.S. and its residents consider themselves the most religious in the country. But due to the coronavirus pandemic, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs has described churches as a “powder keg” for virus infections and deaths. Yet Republican Gov. Tate Reeves has not placed restrictions on worship, citing religious freedom. As Christmas approaches, new cases have been peaking and thousands of Americans are dying from the virus every day. Rev. Jay Richardson was hospitalized after an outbreak at his suburban Jackson church in September. But he’s keeping his church open since he says isolation is worse.

 

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