Protecting religious freedom during public emergencies

Protecting religious freedom during public emergencies

Friday, February 12, 2021

Religion plays an integral role in the daily lives of Hoosiers across the state, and even more so during times of crisis.

The unpredictability of the coronavirus pandemic surely put an undue stress on many of us, and due to local and state restrictions, a number of Hoosiers were unable to take part in their normal religious activities that provide a sense of comfort and community.

Senate Bill 263 would address this by banning state and local government from imposing restrictions on religious organizations and religious services that are more restrictive than those imposed on other businesses and organizations deemed "essential services" during disaster emergencies.

During an emergency, churches and other religious organizations are among the most essential services in any community. They provide soup kitchens, shelters, financial assistance, outreach and rehabilitation programs, on top of regular religious services. Allowing them to continue this good work in times of crisis is crucial to communities everywhere.

Under this bill, organizations could still be subject to religiously neutral and generally applicable health, safety and occupancy requirements during a disaster emergency, but these requirements would have to withstand the "strict scrutiny" legal test.

To follow this bill and others during the legislative session, click here.