California Senator Brian Jones (R-Escondido) introduced Senate Bill 397, the “Religion is Essential Act,” on Feb. 12.
The bill would order state and local governments to treat religious groups as “essential” during pandemics.
“Americans are guaranteed religious freedom and the right to congregate with fellow members at their chosen house of worship,” stated Jones. “For 11 months, California Governor Newsom used the excuse of COVID to violate those rights and his fellow Democrat legislators sheepishly sat on their hands and allowed it to happen. Mercifully, the United States Supreme Court recently stepped in and returned our religious rights, but the threat from Newsom and others to undermine those rights again is still looming.”
According to Jones, the California version of the Religion is Essential Act, SB 397, would:
- Require that the Governor and local governments treat religious services as an essential service (just like retail) during any declared state of emergency; and
- Prohibit the state and local governments from discriminating against a religious organization during an emergency; and
- Require the state and local governments to permit religious services to continue operating during an emergency; and
- Prohibit the state and local governments from enforcing a health, safety or occupancy requirement that imposes a substantial burden on a religious service during an emergency; and
- Allow a religious organization that has been subject to state or local government overreach to file a claim for relief in an administrative or judicial proceeding.
California Family Council’s president Jonathan Keller agreed with Jones.
“The Golden State is blessed with thousands of religious organizations who serve an indispensable role in our communities. Beyond meeting spiritual needs, these essential organizations help provide social services, health care, and economic assistance to millions of Californians,” Keller said. “No church, synagogue, or mosque should ever be treated less fairly than a ‘big box store’ as they seek to feed the hungry, serve the homeless, and love our neighbors.”
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–By CNJ Staff