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 legislation was drafted in response to the coronavirus, when states across the country forcibly closed churches and other religious centers in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Texas was one of the first states to reopen houses of worship, designating them as “essential.”
Republican state Rep. Scott Sanford, the sponsor of the bill, argued church closures was a violation of Texans’ right to worship freely.
Moreover, churches “provide essential spiritual, mental, and physical support in a time of crisis,” he said.
“Closing churches not only eliminated these critical ministries and services, but it violated their religious freedom, guaranteed by our laws and Constitution,” Sanford added.
The Supreme Court struck down California’s church restrictions, arguing the state cannot force houses of worship to close while allowing secular businesses to open.
“Once more, we appear to have a state playing favorites during a pandemic, expending considerable effort to protect lucrative industries (casinos in Nevada; movie studios in California) while denying similar largesse to its faithful,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote. “If Hollywood may host a studio audience or film a singing competition while not a single soul may enter California’s churches, synagogues, and mosques, something has gone seriously awry.”
The Supreme Court also struck down New York’s church restrictions.
“Even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten,” said the unsigned opinion, which added restrictions on houses of worship “strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty.”