News & Politics

Places of Worship Can Now Have up to 250 People Attend Each Service

The capacity change comes after the Archdiocese of Washington sued for unfair treatment.

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Starting today, places of worship in DC can have 25 percent capacity or 250 people at their services, whichever number is smaller, per an order from Mayor Muriel Bowser. The change is likely in response to a recent suit from the Archdiocese of Washington, which argued churches should be treated the same as restaurants in terms of capacity restrictions.

The suit argued that the previous 50-person cap on attendance at religious services failed to take into account the sheer size of some of the city’s houses of worship. The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, for example, is large enough to hold the Statue of Liberty. And, based on data released by the city, there have been just two Covid outbreaks at houses of worship, compared to 21 outbreaks in restaurants.

The change will be a welcome one to churches that are likely seeing an increase of interested worshippers for Christmas services. All houses of worship conducting in-person services are required to have congregants register for services ahead of time to ensure capacity limits and aid with contact tracing if necessary.

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Jane Recker
Assistant Editor

Jane is a Chicago transplant who now calls Cleveland Park her home. Before joining Washingtonian, she wrote for Smithsonian Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times. She is a graduate of Northwestern University, where she studied journalism and opera.