South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) is protecting churches after houses of worship across the country were shuttered as a result of government restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many sanctuaries were closed due to edicts from government officials who saw churches as “non-essential.”
Following Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D), McMaster signed a bill into law this week that will allow houses of worship to remain open during states of emergency, such as pandemics. The law — like the one Beshear signed — states churches provide “an essential service” and “must be allowed to continue operations.”
Listen to the latest episode of the Faithwire podcast 👇
The South Carolina law stipulates the state “may not limit the ability of a religious organization to continue operating and to engage in religious services during a state of emergency to a greater extent than it limits operations or services of other organizations or businesses that provide essential services.”
Greg Chaufuen, legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, said the bill “takes the modest step of ensuring that officials cannot use a public crisis to discriminate against religious operations in violation of the Constitution.” He praised McMaster and South Carolina lawmakers “for taking action to defend religious freedom.”
He went on to say houses of worship “provide soul-sustaining operations that are essential to our society and protected by the First Amendment,” continuing, “While public officials have the authority and responsibility to protect public health and safety, the First Amendment prohibits the government from treating houses of worship and religious organizations worse than shopping centers, restaurants, or gyms.”
McMaster has been consistent on this issue since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
While states around the U.S. — including South Carolina — were shuttering beauty salons, restaurants, event spaces, and gyms, McMaster repeatedly rebuffed the idea of closing churches, arguing doing so would violate South Carolinians’ freedom to practice their respective religious beliefs.
As for the legislation signed into law by Beshear, Family Foundation Executive Director David Walls called it “a victory for religious freedom” in Kentucky.
“Thanks to H.B. 43,” he said, “churches will rightfully be recognized as essential in Kentucky, and the governor’s emergency powers will never again be abused to shut down churches or discriminate against religious organizations.”
You can read more about that law here.
***As the number of voices facing big-tech censorship continues to grow, please sign up for Faithwire’s daily newsletter and download the CBN News app, developed by our parent company, to stay up-to-date with the latest news from a distinctly Christian perspective.***