Are Funerals Banned in Coronavirus Outbreak?

(WSVN) - Unfortunately, one thing does not stop because of the pandemic: Funerals for our loved ones, but can you hold a funeral now? It’s tonight’s Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

When 2020 rolled around, Etta Harbin knew her church would face some hurdles, but not this virus.

Etta Harbin, Mishkan T’Hillah Tabernacle: “Not ever would I think reducing a funeral from 50, 60, 80 to 10.”

Etta has been a minister at Mishkan T’Hillah Tabernacle for 30 years and has a congregation that right now needs her guidance.

Etta Harbin: “They need it because of the pressure, the stress of the unknown. Do I have it? The coronavirus, I don’t have it.”

Next week, she has a funeral for the mother of a law enforcement officer with a large family, but the governor’s emergency order said only 10 people can gather.

Etta Harbin: “There are families, immediate family members. What do you say to them? How do you tell them only 10?”

Etta says a funeral is important to a family, different than any other service at a church.

Etta Harbin: “Absolutely different, you are saying goodbye forever.”

Etta can’t imagine telling heartbroken family members they can’t come to the funeral or have to watch a loved one’s final service on a computer screen.

In particular because the church has the space to seat them all if they sit a few feet apart.

Etta Harbin: “We could get 80.”

Patrick Fraser: “Would you be comfortable doing that?”

Etta Harbin: “Absolutely. I would be comfortable because I don’t have that level of fear.”

But the guidelines, the orders, the directions from government agencies have left her confused.

Etta Harbin: “Right now, I need to know what to do. How do we inform the family? Because we want to be in compliance.”

Well Howard, can Etta’s church have a funeral even though gatherings of 10 or more people are prohibited?

Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: “Yes, they can because churches are exempt from that restriction. That exemption came from Miami-Dade, Broward and the governor’s office. However, ministers are urged to keep their congregation as far apart as possible.”

Miami-Dade, Broward and the governor’s office all sent us documents explaining churches and funeral homes are considered essential and therefore exempt from the law requiring places to close.

While the Archdiocese of Miami has cancelled all masses, they are holding funerals, but only immediate families can attend.

And why are churches exempt from the closure law?

Howard Finkelstein: “Many people believe the separation of church and state means the government cannot close churches, but they can to protect the welfare of the people in a health crisis like we are experiencing now, but while it’s easy to shut down businesses, politicians wanna be careful when it comes to religious services, so they let them make their own decisions.”

Etta will now deliver the eulogy at the funeral, and if the government agencies had told her she could not have held the service, she would have obeyed.

Etta Harbin: “We are taught to abide by the law of the land. We must respect the law of the land, as well.”

Strange times we are in, and over the past few days, we have gotten a lot of questions about your legal rights.

Is it a crime if someone has the coronavirus and knowingly infects people?

Can you be evicted if you cannot pay rent this month?

Does you boss have to provide masks at work?

Those answers and a lot more are under the Help Me Howard banner on our website.

And, of course, every day more questions and concerns pop up for you. Get in touch with us. We are here to help you out.

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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