Dear Governor McMaster,
As bishops of several denominations who, together, serve close to one million people in South Carolina, we share your care and concern for the well-being of all in this state. We are grateful for the work you do.
For a number of years, we have dedicated ourselves to the support of excellent public education for all of our state’s children. We have followed the challenges presented to our education system by the COVID-19 pandemic with our utmost attention. We recognize these challenges because we live them in so many ways, including the suspension of in-person public worship for full congregations. We, like you and so many others, long for the day when it will be safe to return to the kind of gathering that sustains and nourishes us all in church, in school, in work, and through various kinds of recreation.
We believe that time has not arrived for South Carolina. The high number of cases of COVID-19 and the percentage of infections being reported daily across the state are more than alarming, with no dependable forecast of reductions. These metrics are primary barometers informing our own decisions.
We followed your July 15 press conference with great interest. While we agree that in-person instruction for all our children is optimum, we do not believe that calling for an across-the-state, five-days-a-week return to school for instruction is either prudent or wise. We anticipate enormous added strain on teachers and resources in providing this in-person instruction, while simultaneously providing online instruction for students whose parents choose to keep them home. We are concerned that the ambiguity about how safety precautions will work will put too many children and adults at risk without a mandate and clear guidance. We fear that already-disadvantaged students will be put at an even deeper disadvantage.
We are aware of plans the State Department of Education has been developing to ensure that school begins in the strongest way possible this fall. We support Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman’s course of receiving reopening plans from each district, approving only those plans demonstrating that the safety of all children, parents, teachers and administrators is a top priority.
We beseech you to join her in this approach. Merely returning to what is familiar is not only impossible; it poses an unacceptable risk to health and safety. We must instead proceed with care and deliberation, fundamentally informed by education leaders and public health professionals. We do not question your care for the people of our state. We know you seek the best solutions. However, we question the directive given in your July 15 press conference. We ask you to re-evaluate this directive.
We stand ready to support this important work and you in the days ahead, with our prayers and the resources of our offices.
Bishop Samuel L. Green, Sr.
Seventh District, African Methodist Episcopal Church
The Most Rev. Robert E. Guglielmone
Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston
Bishop L. Jonathan Holston
South Carolina Conference, The United Methodist Church
The Rt. Rev. W. Andrew Waldo
The Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina
Bishop James B. Walker
Seventh Episcopal District, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
Bishop Herman R. Yoos
South Carolina Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America