People view their houses of worship as a place of social support, particularly during trying times, points out Elaine Howard Ecklund, chair and professor of social sciences and director of the Religion and Public Life Program at Rice University, Houston, Texas.
Some congregations are citing the Constitution to push back against government-mandated coronavirus closings. "People really feel challenged, especially when they are under extraordinary stress, that they can't be part of their congregations," she says. "A lot of them get emotional comfort from being part of these groups and, for some people, congregations provide economic benefit, whether these organizations are supporting members during struggling times or providing job networking opportunities.
"This doesn't mean that religious organizations should not close their doors, but it does mean that public health experts need to understand all the reasons it's challenging for them to do so.
"It's also important to know that not all congregations are created equal. For a lot of religious organizations, it's not as simple as just flipping a switch and going online. Not all congregations are capable of taking services...