Religious services deemed ‘essential’ in Florida

by Will Tubbs

Curt Flewelling – FISM News


On Friday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law legislation that grants places of worship in what the governor often refers to as “the Free State of Florida” the right to keep doors open during states of emergency.

Florida bill SB 254 officially designates religious services as being essential and therefore allows houses of worship, including churches, to remain open and host public gatherings in the event of a public emergency or disaster.

“I don’t think the government has the authority to close a church, I’m certainly not going to do that,” DeSantis told reporters.

DeSantis is just the latest of a long list of governors to sign bills exempting houses of worship from stay-at-home orders.  Laws such as these make permanent previously issued executive orders which were declared to protect the religious freedoms of citizens.

At the height of COVID lockdowns, many blue state governors issued their own executive orders, prohibiting services at houses of worship citing a commitment to protecting residents.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom became embroiled in a public battle with Grace Community Church pastor John McCarthur over the church’s “right” to congregate during the pandemic.  A reported by Christianity Today at the time, stymied by a Supreme Court ruling that some public health measures do not apply to houses of worship, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to authorize a $400,000 payment to the church to settle the legal battle.

L.A. County subsequently lifted its ban on indoor worship.  Religious leaders, conservative politicians, and many of their constituents have continually questioned how liquor stores and marijuana dispensaries could be deemed “essential” while churches were being summarily shut down during the pandemic.

DeSantis’s signing of SB 254 would be just the latest illustration of his continued commitment to govern in a conservative manner.  His support of anti-rioting legislation, opposition to citizens having to produce vaccine passports, and promotion of the Stop Woke Act (a bill that protects free speech in the workplace), are all examples of his pledge to, as he termed it in November, “Protect the rights, liberties and freedoms of Floridians.”