Last Updated on June 20, 2022
Florida Governor Ron Desantis is set to sign a bill that would consider religious services to be “essential services” across the state.
SB 254 would prevent the Florida government from being able to shut down religious services under most circumstances, especially under “emergency orders.” The draft legislation was introduced in the Florida legislature after houses of worship were forced to close during COVID-19 lockdowns.
Many Republicans were upset that a house of worship might be forced to shut down while liquor or marijuana stores remained open.
According to the bill’s provisions, the only way religious services can be shut down is “in an emergency order which applies uniformly to all entities in the affected jurisdiction may be applied to a religious institution if the provision is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”
“It applies to all emergency orders that would come in. It would basically say if Publix is open, so is your place of worship,” explained Florida Senator Jason Brodeur, the bill’s sponsor.
Brodeur explained how the bill seeks to protect houses of worship from government-ordered shutdowns. “What it doesn’t seek to do is what we’ve seen in some of the other states, where churches, synagogues and mosques were singled out for congregated activities.”
Sen. Brodeur touted the bill’s ability to protect freedom of religion, saying, “No government should have the authority to prevent any American from exercising their freedom of religion.”
Our bill to keep churches open during a public emergency has passed off the Senate floor! No government should have the authority to prevent any American from exercising their freedom of religion.https://t.co/cjWLxr5RYS
— Jason Brodeur (@jasonbrodeur) January 28, 2022
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. DeSantis signed an executive order which allowed religious services to stay open and be deemed essential.
In April, Republican Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed into law a bill similar to Florida’s SB 254.