AUSTIN — State lawmakers are set to consider public feedback on a proposed law that would guard churches from more government attacks.
On Thursday, the Texas House State Affairs Committee will meet and hear citizen testimony on the Freedom to Worship Act, a bill by State Rep. Scott Sanford (R–Mckinney) to prevent government officials from shutting down churches.
“A government agency or public official may not issue an order that closes or has the effect of closing places of worship in the state or in a geographic area of the state,” the bill reads.
The issue was exposed over the past year, as local and state government officials around the nation tried to padlock churches as a part of the shutdown orders that crippled countless citizens’ lives and livelihoods.
“The Freedom to Worship Act makes it clear that no government official can close churches or any place of worship during a pandemic, especially not when other businesses and establishments are allowed the right to open,” wrote nonprofit advocacy group Texas Values in a press release this week. “Last year, churches across the country were told to close while grocery stores, liquor stores, strip clubs, and even casinos were allowed to remain open.”
“Even in our state, some churches in Texas were told how to conduct worship services during a pandemic while police circled their drive-in church services,” the group added.
The Freedom to Worship Act’s Senate companion bill has already passed the parallel Senate committee and is now moving forward to the full Senate chamber for debate and a vote.
If the bill passes both chambers, it will end up on the governor’s desk to be signed into law.
The House State Affairs Committee will also hear other religious protection bills on Thursday, including a proposed constitutional amendment to prevent government officials from closing or limiting a worship service; proposed laws to fortify safeguards for religious organizations and freedoms; and a resolution to support prayer at public gatherings and displays of the Ten Commandments at public buildings.
Concerned citizens may testify at the Capitol or contact their representatives.