Bill making worship services 'essential' counters guv's mandates

Thursday, March 4, 2021
 | 
Chris Woodward, Michael F. Haverluck (OneNewsNow.com)

church congregation (rear view)A California state senator wants religious services to be treated as "essential services" that are critical to the health and welfare of the public – and after introducing a bill calling for that, he's received the backing of a prominent California pastor.

Senator Brian Jones – one of only nine Republicans in California's 40-member Senate – has introduced the "Religion is Essential Act" (SB 397), a measure designed to counter unconstitutional statewide mandates put into place by Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom.

"It goes back to the founding of the country and even before that," Jones tells One News Now. "It's enshrined in our U.S. Constitution – and unfortunately, too many governors across the country use the pandemic as an excuse to shut down churches, temples, synagogues … all kinds of religious facilities."

Jones

The state lawmaker argues that "most of the time those shutdowns were done out of ignorance and a lack of respect for the value that these services and gatherings add to a human being's life."

"With the U.S. Supreme Court now deciding and stating that churches can't be unilaterally shut down indiscriminately against what's happening with the rest of society, I decided in California that we need to put some of this into statute so that future governors cannot take advantage of this situation and that they have to follow not just the Constitution, which should be enough, but now it'll be in state law."

Jones has been receiving letters and emails supporting his legislation, which has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee where Jones is a member.

"There's 40 senators in California, and we want all 40 senators to get support from their districts for this bill," Jones continues. "That is what will help me the most in getting it passed."

Similar bills have been introduced in other states. At least one state, Arkansas, passed the legislation into law.

Co-sponsors of SB 397 include California Family Council, Judeo-Christian Caucus, Real Impact and the Capitol Resource Institute, while Alliance Defending Freedom and The Salt & Light Council are supporting the bill along with Calvary Chapel Chino Hills (see below).

The proposed legislation is awaiting an assignment to California's Senate Policy Committee for a hearing.

Pastor supports Jones' bill

Calvary Chapel Chino Hills pastor Jack Hibbs is intent on making sure Governor Newsom is no longer a threat to religious freedom across the Golden State.

Hibbs

"Senator Brian Jones has my complete support in his effort to codify religious services as essential services in the State of California," Hibbs proclaims in a press release. "It's regretful that the Church – established by Jesus Christ at the inception of his ministry – must now be legislatively recognized in legislation due to the overreaching actions of Governor Gavin Newsom."

The governor, he says, clearly singled out churches for discrimination during the state's debilitating lockdown – above and beyond limitations imposed upon businesses and other non-religious establishments. "Clearly, [he] has favored secular assemblies – including mass protest on the streets [and] crowded 'big box' stores – and failed to follow his own mandates and dined indoors with friends," Hibbs points out.

He also notes the Democrat's flagrant disregard for the U.S. Constitution and citizens' rights to assemble and worship together.

"In his efforts to protect the health and safety of the public, he obliterated the First Amendment's free exercise of religion," Hibbs argues. "Governor Newsom has clearly failed the churches of California."

Churches are essential …

The evangelical church noted that SB 397 would establish the following protections for churches statewide:

  • "Require that the Governor and local governments treat religious services as an essential service (just like retail) during any declared state of emergency"
  • "Prohibit the state and local governments from discriminating against a religious organization during an emergency"
  • "Require the state and local governments to permit religious services to continue operating during an emergency"
  • "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"
  • "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"

Hibbs maintains that no governor, president, or elected official can overstep to God-given right to worship, fellowship, and exercise otherwise practice one's faith.

"It is essential that the doors of the church be kept open for the preaching of the Word as commanded by God to serve the spiritual needs of the men, women, and children in our communities," the pastor concludes.

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