Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine
Office of Gov. Mike DeWine

Gov. Mike DeWine is calling on Ohioans to slow the spread of the coronavirus even as Christmas approaches. DeWine says a surge in COVID-19 cases could hit hospitals hard.

With COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths at record levels, a top public health official called on religious leaders to keep their worship spaces closed, despite rising protests from some church leaders.

"The virus is having a wonderful time right now, taking advantage of circumstances where people have let their guard go down," said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health. "Churches gathering in person is a source of considerable concern and has certainly been an instance where super spreading has happened and could happen again."

Forty years after the murder of Sister Dorothy Kazel and three other missionary women in El Salvador, members of the Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland continue work to preserve their legacies.

Local Catholic institutions are planning virtual events for Wednesday to honor the anniversary of their deaths.

Kazel was abducted by five members of the Salvadoran National Guard after a trip to the airport on Dec. 2, 1980, along with her fellow missionary Jean Donovan and Maryknoll Sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford. The women were raped and later murdered by the guardsmen.

Gov. Mike DeWine tweeted out this photo of him signing a bill on addiction treatment drugs. His office didn't share a photo of him signing HB 272, which he signed the same day.
Office of Gov. Mike DeWine

Gov. Mike DeWine last week signed into law a bill that would ban public officials from closing houses of worship or moving the date of an election – though he insists those things have technically never happened in Ohio.

People of faith continue to find new ways to worship during the COVID-19 pandemic, from outdoor, socially distant gatherings to online services and sermons on CD. Many in Cincinnati's Jewish community will mark the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur differently this year.

"We know one thing," says Shep Englander, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, "they will not look anything like they've looked ever before."

Updated at 6:44 p.m. ET

The U.S. Supreme Court has carved out a major exception to the nation's fair employment laws. In a 7-2 vote, the court ruled on Wednesday that the country's civil rights laws barring discrimination on the job do not apply to most lay teachers at religious elementary schools.

Updated at 12:32 p.m. ET

The U.S. Supreme Court has made it more difficult for women to get access to birth control as part of their health plans if their employer has religious or moral objections to contraceptives.

The opinion upheld a Trump administration rule that significantly cut back on the Affordable Care Act requirement that insurers provide free birth control coverage as part of almost all health care plans.

stack of books
tookapic / Pixabay

Gov. Mike DeWine has signed a law that allows students in public schools to express their religious beliefs.

Eighteen Northeast Ohio church congregations are joining forces to offer free, on-site COVID-19 testing.

In addition to getting more people tested, the effort also aims to address racial disparities in coronavirus response.

Greater Cleveland Congregations is launching the Color of Health Initiative, with an emphasis on the African American community and other higher-risk groups. The initiative is a partnership with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health and MetroHealth.

Adora Namigadde

The COVID-19 pandemic brought about major changes in how people exercise religion and express faith. 

Updated at 3 p.m. ET

President Trump said Friday that state governors should allow churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship to reopen immediately.

In brief comments at the White House, Trump said houses of worship are "essential places that provide essential services." Churches have faced restrictions for gatherings and ceremonies as public health officials worked to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Some have chafed at the restrictions.

Updated at 7:25 p.m.

The Supreme Court's conservative majority signaled Wednesday that it is on the verge of carving out a giant exception to the nation's fair employment laws.

Before the court were two cases, both involving fifth grade teachers at parochial schools in California. One, a veteran of 16 years teaching at her school, contends her firing was a case of age discrimination. The other said she was fired after she told her superior that she had breast cancer and would need some time off.

The birth-control wars return to the Supreme Court Wednesday, and it is likely that the five-justice conservative majority will make it more difficult for women to get birth control if they work for religiously affiliated institutions like hospitals, charities and universities.

Solid Rock Church in Warren County has come under fire for continuing to hold in-person services and meetings during the coronavirus pandemic.
Wikimedia Commons

In spite of stay-at-home orders in Ohio and other states, there were a handful of churches across the country that still held in-person Easter services on Sunday, including the Solid Rock Church in Monroe north of Cincinnati.

Passover begins today and Holy Week is underway leading up to Easter Sunday. Sometimes memories of holidays can blend together from year to year, but this one will be different for many Northeast Ohioans celebrating during a pandemic.

Rev. Micah Sims of Lee Memorial AME Church in Cleveland is all in with virtual church, streaming services, posting updates and conducting much of church life with members staying in their homes.