California Senator Brian Jones has filed a bill last February 12 making religious services "essential" during emergencies such as the pandemic.
The bill, entitled as Religion Is Essential Act, intends to "amend Section 8571, 8627, 8627.5, 8634, and 8655 of and to add Article 18.5 to Chapter 7 of" the California government code, as well as, "amend sections of its Health and Safety code, relating to emergency powers."
Christian Headlines adds that the bill would require the government to allow religious services to continue during a state of emergency and to prohibit enforcing a health, safety, or occupancy requirement that would become a "substantial burden on a religious service" during a state of emergency. A claim for relief may be filed by the religious organization in an administrative or judicial proceeding if it has experienced "government overreach."
As per Christian Headlines, Jones' bill is co-sponsored by California Family Council, the Capitol Resource Institute and the Judeo-Christian Caucus. These are among the groups listed as co-sponsoring the bill.
The bill comes as a response to "violations" of religious liberty committed by California's Governor Gavin Newsom who prohibited church services during the pandemic as a precaution to the COVID-19 cases from spreading.
"Governor Newsom and other Democrat politicians across our nation illegally closed Churches, Mosques, Shrines, Synagogues, and Temples," Jones said in a statement published in his website.
"Americans are guaranteed religious freedom and the right to congregate with fellow members at their chosen house of worship," he stressed.
"For 11 months, California Governor Newsom used the excuse of COVID to violate those rights and his fellow Democrat legislators sheepishly sat on their hands and allowed it to happen," he added. "Mercifully, the United States Supreme Court recently stepped in and returned our religious rights, but the threat from Newsom and others to undermine those rights again is still looming."
Per earlier reports, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on February 5 that California couldn't use the coronavirus pandemic to forbid indoor church and only prescribed limits to those who can gather for indoor church to 25% of a building's capacity alongside singing and chanting restrictions. It cited Chief Justice John Roberts who said deference "has its limits" and that "federal courts owe significant deference to politically accountable officials."
Similarly Justice Elena Kagan, in behalf of Justice Stephen Breyer and Justice Sonia Sotomayor, expressed their disagreement with the governor who should not treat church services similar to ordinary large group gatherings by making a special exception for it.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruling, as reported by Christian Headlines, have lead some churches, mosques, and temples to open for worship while mostly remain closed preferring online services or congregating outdoors.
"Practicing one's religion can be done safely, even during a pandemic, and the state should never have turned those who practice religion into second class citizens," Jones said. "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."