Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas has approved legislation banning the government from closing places of worship.
On Tuesday, Abbott signed HB1239 into law, declaring that “the First Amendment right to freedom of religion shall never be infringed.”
Abbott tweeted, “I just signed a law that prohibits any government agency or public official from issuing an order that closes places of worship, the First Amendment right to freedom of religion shall never be infringed.”
I just signed a law that prohibits any government agency or public official from issuing an order that closes places of worship.
The First Amendment right to freedom of religion shall never be infringed.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) June 15, 2021
The bill prohibits the closure of a “building or grounds where religious activities are conducted” by “any elected or appointed officer, employee, or agent of the state.”
Following the spread of COVID-19 across the United States, churches, synagogues, and mosques were forced to close. In March 2020, states instituted lockdowns in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Services deemed “non-essential,” such as houses of worship, was shut down.
By executive order, Abbott reopened places of worship later that month, identifying them as critical services.
According to Fox News, the bill’s sponsor, Texas state Rep. Scott Sanford, said, “Churches provide important spiritual, mental, and physical support in a time of distress.”
He also added, “Closing churches not only eliminated these critical ministries and services, but it violated their religious freedom, guaranteed by our laws and Constitution.”
Multiple pastors were detained during the initial wave of COVID-19 after holding services in violation of local COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.
The orders were met with resistance from churches and synagogues. After the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn sued New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the Supreme Court blocked the governor’s restrictions on church attendance limits in November, holding that the laws were unconstitutional, “Cannot be viewed as neutral because they single out houses of worship for especially harsh treatment.”